Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill have concluded what many North Carolinians have long surmised: Strong winds in the coastal region mean there's a potential for large-scale wind energy generators — offshore and perhaps in part of eastern Pamlico Sound.
That's what researchers at Duke Energy think, too. The company is proposing a test project of one to three tall wind turbines in Pamlico Sound perhaps as early as next year. The turbines might rise 500 feet, cost up to $12 million each and generate enough electricity for 1,000 homes each. The experiment could provide valuable knowledge and expertise about the potential for a utility-grade generating facility to take advantage of coastal winds.
That kind of practical experience would be more than helpful; it would be crucial to determining whether wind energy can be a significant contributor to the state's and region's energy production needs. The UNC study, commissioned by the N.C. General Assembly, found that most of the state's waters, except those in Pamlico Sound west of Avon and Hatteras, are poorly suited to wind energy development, but "large areas offshore" are potentially well-suited for energy development.
That's encouraging. North Carolina has been slow to develop its wind energy potential, but with the commitment of Duke Energy the state may be able to become a leader in coastal and offshore wind resources. That would take concentrated effort, however, including more research on power transmission infrastructure in the Eastern region and the creation of state incentives to hasten wind development.
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