Business interest in building wind farm off Outer Banks may be waning

Source: By Jeff Hampton, The Virginian-Pilot • Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sep 30, 2016


Business interest in building a wind farm off Kitty Hawk may be waning as the Oct. 17 deadline for proposals approaches.

Five companies expressed interest early in the process, but now one says it hasn’t decided whether to take part in the auction, and another is citing flaws with the site and heading elsewhere.

“We were never interested in Kitty Hawk,” said Paul Gallagher, chief operating officer and general counsel for Fishermen’s Energy, which is bidding on a wind farm in Wilmington instead.

If there is no interest, the project will not continue, said James Bennett, manager of the Office of Renewable Energy Programs for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, at a recent public meeting.

The bureau plans to hold the auction early next year. The five initially interested companies were Fishermen’s Energy, Green Sail Energy, Outer Banks Ocean Energy, EDF Renewable Energy and Dominion Power, which has not decided whether it will take part in the auction, said spokesman Dan Genest. Dominion is also working on a wind farm off Virginia Beach, but it hit a snag in May when the federal government withdrew a $40 million grant.

Multiple calls to EDF and Ocean Energy were not returned. No contact information was available for Green Sail Energy, and its listed website was no longer valid.

Gallagher said the Kitty Hawk site’s distance offshore and lack of an adjacent port were major reasons for Fishermen’s Energy’s decision.

The Wilmington wind areas are about 14 miles off the coast, compared with 27 miles for Kitty Hawk. Plus, the Kitty Hawk site is double that from the Norfolk port and too close to the offshore wind area off Virginia Beach, Gallagher said.

The bureau has issued leases for 11 areas on the East Coast. Many of them would be among the largest wind farms in the world.

The Kitty Hawk wind area is 122,405 acres and roughly 30 miles long. Wind speeds have been measured to average 20 miles per hour measured at 260 feet up, and the turbines could reach much higher than that. Fully built out, the wind farm could produce about 1,500 megawatts.

Retired nuclear power engineer Manny Medeiros of Kitty Hawk was the only opponent to the wind project off the Outer Banks at a public meeting held in Nags Head last week. Medeiros has been an outspoken critic of wind projects in the region.

Denmark, Italy and Spain have seen a dramatic drop in wind turbine projects after the costs of construction and operation needed heavy government subsidies to exist, Medeiros said. Power costs to customers also soared, he said.

“After receiving lavish corporate welfare for 40 years, the wind industry has yet to produce practical wind-generated electricity,” he said. “There is absolutely no money to be made generating electricity from wind mills.”

The U.S. learned from European mistakes and based wind farm leases on free market principles, the ocean energy bureau’s Bennett said.