The North Carolina Taskforce for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies (NC TOWERS), held its final meeting of the year at Carteret Community College in Morehead City on November 1st.
NC TOWERS brings together representatives from government, industry, wildlife and environmental advocates, community leaders, and the military to help North Carolina take advantage of the economic and environmental opportunities that offshore wind and the associated supply chain present.
Offshore wind development along the U.S. Atlantic Coast – and the accompanying supply chain – present a significant economic opportunity for North Carolina, with an estimated 85,000 new jobs and $140 billion in capital expenditures by 2035.
North Carolina is well positioned to attract a significant portion of the jobs and economic investment opportunity that the offshore wind industry presents, according to the Building North Carolina’s Offshore Wind Supply Chain Report commissioned by the N.C. Department of Commerce and released last year.
“A clean energy plan that includes offshore wind is good for our people, good for our planet and good for our pocketbooks,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “North Carolina is leading the way in transitioning to a clean energy economy.”
In June 2021, Gov. Cooper signed Executive Order No. 218, establishing North Carolina’s offshore wind development goals of 2.8 gigawatts off the North Carolina coast by 2030 and 8.0 GW by 2040. The order also established the NC TOWERS taskforce.
The Taskforce is charged with presenting an annual report to the Governor and the NC General Assembly that summarizes the status of North Carolina’s offshore wind energy development activities and recommends policies, programs and other activities to advance offshore wind-related projects, supply chain development, and other economic opportunities.
In June 2022, NC TOWERS released its first report highlighting work to date and identifying goals for the Taskforce in the 2022-2023 year. The Taskforce established four subcommittees for deeper work : Economic Opportunity and Business Development; Workforce, Education, and Training Opportunity Development; Infrastructure; and Outreach and Engagement.
One key goal of the Taskforce for 2022-2023 is to create a master calendar that includes all state, federal, and local government meetings, as well as stakeholder and advocate meetings on the topic of offshore wind to allow North Carolina stakeholders and citizens to be informed and involved in the responsible development of offshore wind in North Carolina.
During the November meeting, the Outreach and Engagement Subcommittee shared information with Taskforce members about efforts, to date, to engage stakeholders across the state and hear their thoughts on the responsible development of offshore wind in the state.
All North Carolinians are invited to participate in the NC TOWERS Stakeholder Survey, which is open through Nov. 7, 2022.
By participating in the on-line survey, North Carolinians can: share their feedback, let the Taskforce know what information they need about offshore wind, sign up for the Department of Commerce’s new newsletter on offshore wind, and express interest in attending a meeting in their community about offshore wind.
While the offshore wind industry is nascent in the U.S., the industry has been growing for more than two decades in the UK, where wind power accounted for one-quarter of total electricity generation in 2020 (13% from offshore; 11% from onshore wind) according to the UK Office of National Statistics.
Albert Clark, Global Head of Offshore Wind for the UK Department of International Trade shared some key lessons with Taskforce members that his country has learned over the past 20 years in offshore wind, including “never doubt how quickly the sector will grow.
“The UK is one of the world leaders in offshore wind,” said Clark. “We actually have the second-most installed capacity, second only to China, with 12.7 GW installed. We have a pretty monumentous ambition of 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030.”
A key focus of the November taskforce meeting was workforce development and taskforce members had the opportunity to learn from an expert panel from the United Kingdom which included:
- Kerrie Foster, CEO, The Workboat Association
- Hazel Lince, Business and Product Development Manager, TTE International Limited
- Louise Smith, Director, Aura Innovation Center, University of Hull
A second panel of experts from the UK focused on ports and featured:
- Charlotte Brown, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Tyne
- Andrew Oliver, Chairman of Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises Limited and Port of Grimsby East; Partner, Andrew Jackson Solicitors
- Dafydd Williams, Head of Policy, Communications, and Economic Development, Humber, Associated British Ports
Members of the ports panel shared how they have experienced that building up port infrastructure to support offshore wind can lift up an entire region with well-paying new industry jobs. They emphasized how important it is for ports to be diversified and adaptable to new industry. The UK delegation also toured North Carolina’s two deep water ports this week.
“North Carolina has deep water ports in Morehead City and Wilmington that could support the offshore wind industry up and down the entire East Coast,” said Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “Our ports are vital to North Carolina’s ability to take advantage of the billions of dollars in economic investment and tens-of-thousands of family-sustaining jobs that offshore wind’s clean energy industry can bring our state over the next twelve years.”
A recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that the U.S. offshore wind industry will need an average of between 15,000 and 58,000 full-time jobs every year from 2024 to 2030. That’s a significant increase from the 1,000 jobs currently supporting the industry in the U.S.
“Powering up our workforce to meet this demand is critical,” said Taskforce Chair Marqueta Welton. “North Carolina has the largest manufacturing presence on the East Coast and a diverse and highly skilled workforce in both manufacturing and skilled trades. Now, we need to help our manufacturing and skilled trades workers to be able to pivot to benefit from the incredible opportunity presented by offshore wind,” said Welton, who also serves as Chief of Staff for the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Taskforce members heard from the Workforce, Education, and Training Subcommittee on efforts to assess workforce skills needed in North Carolina to support development of the offshore wind industry.
Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division (LEAD) has completed, on behalf of the taskforce, a skills analysis for construction and installation occupations in the offshore wind industry.
The Taskforce will be able to use the findings from the skills analysis to identify the current supply of labor in those key occupations and to recommend new training programs to fill any gaps.
N.C. Commerce Assistant Secretary for Clean Energy, Jennifer Mundt, provided an update to the Taskforce on both state and federal offshore wind activities – including the Inflation Reduction Act which removes the 10-year moratorium on the leasing of offshore wind areas in federal waters.
“The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act clears a path for North Carolina to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new industry in our state, said Mundt. “The U.S. offshore wind industry – and the supply chain to go with it – represent a potential $100 billion in economic investments across North Carolina, tens of thousands of family-sustaining jobs for North Carolinians across our state, and clean, renewable energy to power hundreds of thousands of North Carolina homes and businesses.”
The Taskforce meets quarterly, and public meetings are livestreamed via Webex to the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s YouTube channel. The next meeting will take place February 2, 2023. Recordings and presentations from each meeting can be viewed on the Department of Commerce website.
Learn more about NC TOWERS here.