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A new report from Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center estimates that offshore can produce a third of the state’s energy needs, while also creating tens of thousands of well-paying jobs in the state’s coastal region.

North Carolina has more offshore wind potential than any other state along the Atlantic coast. This new report estimates that wind farms off the North Carolina coast could produce enough power for 2.7 million homes by 2030. If the state fails to develop its wind potential, the energy these homes need will likely come from burning coal or natural gas, which produce emissions that will exacerbate climate change and necessitate more mining, drilling and fracking.

Offshore wind supporters estimate that developing North Carolina’s offshore wind potential could create 45,000 jobs in construction and 9,100 in permanent maintanance, delivering a total of $22 billion in total economic benefit to the state. However, the wind industry is largely dependent on federal tax credits. Congress recently voted to extend the tax credits, but only through 2014, making it impossible for new projects to qualify. Wind farms generally take 18-24 months to reach completion, so developers will need to see more stable policies in place before they launch new projects.

There are a few projects already underway off of the New England coast, but the US is lagging far behind Europe, where offshore wind farms are close to generating 5,000 MW of power. The winds off the Carolina coast are steadily blowing, and if state and federal authorities commit to incentivizing the development of offshore wind farms, these winds could become an important source of clean, renewable energy and green jobs for our state.