North Carolina's first offshore wind farm has been years in the making, and there's still plenty of work left.
Megan Higgins, senior director of offshore development for Oregon-based Avangrid Renewables, said the firm is on track to have Phase 1 of a project known as Kitty Hawk – for its relative location off the Outer Banks – running as early as 2026.
Avangrid, which first leased the site back in 2017, expects the farm to pack an economic development impact punch of more than $1 billion.
But the project’s touchpoint on the coast might not be in North Carolina.
While nothing has been finalized, early analysis shows the Virginia Beach, area and not the Outer Banks, may be more “conducive” to the massive cable that will attach a power station to the project, which will be located 27 miles off the coast, Higgins said.
The project, which, at full capacity, could generate about 2,500 megawatts of power, is a tremendous undertaking, Higgins said.
“It’s a long process from lease acquisition to construction to ultimate operation,” she said.
Recently, Avangrid had its site assessment plan approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which allowed survey vessels and contractors to pull a research buoy from the Chesapeake Bay and bring it to the lease area. The buoy is equipped with instruments that collect real-time data aimed at helping Avangrid “figure out where we should built the project,” Higgins said.
Right now, the buoy is collecting a plethora of information, from wind-speed data to temperature to current speeds. The buoy will be in place for about two years and will predict the most optimal place and configuration of what, ultimately, will be the build out of Phase 1.
Phase 1, planned for about 40 percent of the leased area, could start construction in 2025. But that’s after multiple assessments are completed and permits are obtained. Already, the company is undergoing geophysical surveys of the seabed, determining if it’s sandy or rocky. It’s getting ready for geotechnical surveys that will involve boring into the seabed to get more information on its makeup.
“The profile of the seabed will determine what sort of foundation will be allowable in the leasing area,” she said.
Together, the surveys will guide Avangrid engineers as they determine how many turbines can be placed in the lease area, and where, exactly, they’ll go.
In the meantime, Avangrid is preparing another document for BOEM, a construction and operations plan. It’s a massive document and must satisfy 26 different federal statutes, she said. The goal is to submit it by the end of this year.
The approval of the construction and operations plan will kick off the two-year federal permitting process, which will start with an environmental impact statement.
At the same time, the project will need state permits with either Virginia or North Carolina, depending on where the landing location ends up being. The decision is dependent on several factors, from rights-of-way to offtake agreements to the land formation.
“The Outer Banks, given the formation of the land, is not as conducive, so we are looking at the Virginia Beach area,” Higgins said. “We are talking to our partners in the region.”
The goal is to have permits in hand in 2024 to accommodate the projected construction start of 2025.
“There is a very rigorous engagement process included with all of the steps within the development process,” Higgins said. “It is not only required … but we have made a concerted effort to reach out to the local communities.”