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Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

2 companies win auction for North Carolina offshore wind leases

Wind turbines off Virginia Beach are owned by Dominion Energy.
David Boraks
Wind turbines off Virginia Beach. Two companies have won an auction for North Carolina offshore wind leases.

Two companies have won leases for offshore wind farms off North Carolina with bids totaling $315 million.

Duke Energy Renewables Wind, a subsidiary of Charlotte-based Duke Energy, bid $155 million for one lease. TotalEnergies Renewables, a subsidiary of a French energy developer, won the other, with a $160 million bid.

The side-by-side leases are 55,000 acres each in the Carolina Long Bay wind area. The site is 17 nautical miles south of Bald Head Island.

"We are very excited. It's great to have both Duke Energy and an independent investor. We're really looking forward to working with both of them to bring offshore wind to the state," said Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition.

"The price was high, but not astronomical, and certainly showed a lot of interest in North Carolina offshore wind."

Map shows the two wind areas known as Carolina Long Bay or Wilmington East, south of Bald Head Island.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Map shows the two wind areas known as Carolina Long Bay or Wilmington East, south of Bald Head Island.

As part of their winning bids, the companies agreed to contribute a total of $42 million to workforce training and to help develop a U.S. supply chain for the offshore wind industry. It was the first time an offshore wind auction included that requirement, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which conducted the auction.

“The new bidding credit in the Carolina Long Bay auction will result in tangible investments for workforce training and businesses in the United States, to ultimately create jobs in the U.S. across the industries needed to support achieving our offshore wind goals,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton.

The companies now must finalize the leases by July 1. That's to beat an impending ban on new offshore wind leases ordered by former President Donald Trump.

If the two projects are built, they could generate about 1.3 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 500,000 homes, according to BOEM.

Duke Energy believes it can increase the projected capacity of its half of the site to 1.6 gigawatts, according to a spokeswoman.

In a news release, Duke said it considers wind one potential option.

“Securing this lease creates optionality for future offshore wind if the North Carolina Utilities Commission determines it’s part of the least cost path to achieve 70% carbon reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2050,” Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, said in the release.

North Carolina's 2021 energy reform law asks the state utilities commission to consider wind energy. But it also contains language that requires regulators to choose the "least-cost" option.

Duke Energy has been drafting its own proposed carbon reduction plan, which must be filed by Monday, May 16. Officials say it gives regulators "multiple scenarios," including wind energy. The utilities commission must approve a final plan by the end of the year.

The North Carolina leases are aimed at helping meet federal and state goals for offshore wind energy as part of a push to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation. President Biden has set a goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has set a state goal of 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040.

The Wilmington offshore wind site is the second off North Carolina. Avangrid Renewables is in the midst of planning for a wind farm off Kitty Hawk, on the Outer Banks.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.