There is no doubt that all economies took a hit as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Most countries, states, and even individual cities were faced with devastating economic impacts as a result of the necessary lockdowns. Many companies went bankrupt, or were forced to lay off many employees, some companies moved out of office spaces and into remote working environments as a means to save money. Millions of Americans were out of work and going deeper and deeper into debt, unable to pay their bills while work was scarce or unavailable at all.
The big question is ‘where do we go from here’? And how do we move on and build back up our economies and communities?
North Carolina is presented with a unique and timely economic-investment opportunity which is offshore wind energy. At our current rate of progressing climate change, it is essentially necessary to start taking major actions in the transition process to clean and renewable energies. NC coastal cities are doing just that with offshore wind. Proposed sites for the wind turbines are off of the coast of Kitty Hawk, as well as the Wilmington East and Wilmington West areas.
Value of Offshore Wind
The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Office of Technology and Innovation (NCDOC) conducted research and came up with two sets of potential economic outcome models for if the state went through with the project. One model predicted lower values in the case that the project does not succeed and reach full potential, while the second prediction model shows the maximum-potential values. Just in the construction phase, the NCDOC predicts that 14,000 workers will be contracted and employed in the low prediction model, while they predict upwards toward 28,000 new construction jobs in the maximum-potential model. They also predict an economic output of between $3.9 to $7.6 Billion as a result of the lengthy construction process. Even on the lower prediction end, $3.9 Billion is significant in a state’s economy (NC Department of Commerce).
Construction is just the beginning of the operation, and the economic gain from the construction ends at the completion of the project. Following the completion of the construction the NCDOC predicts around 1000 new full-time jobs for annual operation, with the optimistic model predicting around 2,500 full-time employees. These models also predicted that offshore wind-energy production could contribute $250 million annually to North Carolina’s economy, with the maximum-potential models predicting up to a $790 million dollar annual contribution to the economy (NC Department of Commerce).
Not only is investing in offshore wind energy important in the transition from fossil fuel energy production to clean energy, but as a result, it has major economic benefits. These can help build back North Carolina’s major and macro-economics, and employ thousands of North Carolinians on the coast, especially those of lower-income and minority communities who were hit the hardest during the economic strains of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we all share the experience of the quarantine, our situations do not compare to one another’s. For those with lower-incomes, funds quickly dried out and paying rent and even buying food became difficult, leading many to have to rely on food pantries and local assistance-programs to help them get through.
Some of the lowest-income communities in North Carolina surround the coast. Counties such as Pasquotank and Bertie county have been left out of the thriving coastal, tourist-economy (Ouzts, 2021). North Carolina’s coast has such unique positioning and qualities that the state is ranked 2nd for offshore wind energy potential (NC Commerce). Presented to us is a great opportunity to invest in the future, and invest in the environment; and in doing so, we can boost the economies of these struggling communities by providing work opportunities.
Given the net potential of wind energy production off the coast of North Carolina, it is possible that North Carolina could see economic benefits closer to those of the maximum-potential predicted models. If this happens, construction processes alone could employ full communities and benefit those regions, and the annual economic output would strengthen the state’s economy as a whole. Stronger macro and micro-economies within the state, as well as more job opportunities can better prepare us as individuals and as communities for future setbacks or even pandemics.
Learn more about the potential of offshore wind at the 2022 UNC Cleantech Summit event on March 29-30, 2022.
This article was written by:
Environmental Studies- Sustainability Major
Class of 2023
NC Department of Commerce, Office of Science Technology and Innovation.
Offshore Wind: Generating Economic Benefits in North Carolina, Economic Impact of a North Carolina Offshore Wind Farm.
NC Commerce: Offshore Wind Industry. (n.d.). NC Commerce. https://www.nccommerce.com/business/key-industries-north-carolina/energy/offshore-wind-industry
Ouzts, E. (2021, November 18). In need of jobs, northeastern North Carolina sees promise in offshore wind. Energy News Network. https://energynews.us/2021/11/18/in-need-of-jobs-northeastern-north-carolina-sees-promise-in-offshore-wind/