UNC and Duke Energy sign contract to develop coastal
wind pilot project
In a pilot project designed to harness the power of the
ocean breezes along North Carolina’s coast, the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke Energy announced
they have signed a contract to place up to three demonstration
wind turbines in the Pamlico Sound.
The pilot project builds on a nine-month study completed
in June 2009 by UNC for the North Carolina General Assembly
which concluded that North Carolina is well-positioned
to develop utility-scale wind energy production.
These demonstration turbines may be the first turbines
placed in water in the United States, providing UNC with
a valuable opportunity for ongoing research about issues
raised in its coastal wind study. Duke Energy will pay
for the turbines and their installation. UNC will continue
its research throughout the project.
The pilot turbine installation will facilitate utility-scale
wind energy development by enabling studies to optimize
measuring and predicting the wind resource, quantifying
ecological impacts, and demonstrating turbine performance
in tropical storm conditions.
In September, government representatives along with representatives
from UNC and Duke Energy, held a meeting on the Outer
Banks to get community feedback on the pilot project.
Over the coming weeks and months, UNC and Duke Energy
will continue to seek out community comments and answer
questions about the project.
“This project is the critical step that will determine
the future of wind power off the Outer Banks,” North
Carolina Senator Marc Basnight said. “It will allow for
community feedback and collaboration, and it will be
a very positive information-finding effort. People will
be able to view the turbines working and we will gain
a greater understanding of how to use wind as a renewable
energy source. What we learn from this project will chart
the future of offshore wind energy for our state.”
Places with the best conditions for producing constant,
strong winds include rounded hilltops, mountain gaps,
open plains, shorelines and over the ocean. To generate
power from these winds, a wind turbine uses specially-shaped
blades that connect to a drive shaft that then turns
an electric generator to produce electricity.
Although wind power produced only about 1.5 percent of
the world’s electricity in 2008, its usage doubled between
2005 and 2008, according to a report by the non-profit
World Wind Energy Association.
Duke Energy has 634 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind
energy in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming, another 99
MW under construction and an additional 251 MW of wind
projects scheduled to begin operation in 2010.