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Wind farm off NC coast closer to reality as firm presses forward

Triangle Business Journal | Lauren Ohnesorge | February 27, 2020

The possibility of a wind farm off the Carolina outer banks is closer to being a reality as the company behind the first leased tract has taken a big step forward.

Three years after submitting the winning bid for what’s known as the Kitty Hawk tract off the coast, Avangrid (NYSE: AGR) is ready for the next round of paperwork.

On Feb. 20, its site assessment plan was approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said Avangrid CEO Jim Torgerson on an earnings call with analysts this week.

Company spokesman Paul Copleman confirmed the news, calling it a great step that “enables us to move forward with the next round of data gathering and resources assessment, including deploying a buoy to gather meteorological and ocean data.”

“There’s still a lot of work for us to do,” he said. “This remains a deliberative and consultative process with a lot of important voices participating.”

Avangrid has been working to bring offshore wind to North Carolina since 2017 when it submitted a $9.1 million bid to lease the 122,000-acre tract off the coast of Kitty Hawk Coastal Reserve. But all along executives have said the process will take time. In addition to regulatory hurdles, it’s a complex and expensive project – made even more difficult by the fact that the tract is miles out to sea.

Now that the SAP has been approved, the company, owned by Spanish energy firm Iberdrola, has less than five years to submit a construction and operations plan. An environmental review is expected to follow, after which Avangrid would have a term of 25 years to construct and operate the state’s first offshore wind farm.  

The Kitty Hawk project, with a lease area now 100 percent owned by Avangrid, has a potential capacity of up to 2.5 gigawatts, according to Torgerson.

On the earnings call, Torgerson said the U.S. offshore wind market is gaining “considerable momentum,” pointing to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island as setting “ambitious offshore wind targets.”

Avangrid is a name already familiar to eastern North Carolina: it's the company behind the Amazon wind farm near Elizabeth City.

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