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South Carolina Well-Positioned to Benefit From Emerging Offshore Wind Industry in U.S.

February 28, 2018   By Elizabeth Kress in Green Energy

Offshore windmills like this one may become more prevalent in the Southeast’s energy mix.

This year is off to a stellar start for the U.S. Offshore Wind (OSW) industry. Many East Coast states (New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland and Virginia) have seen accelerated efforts to develop both offshore wind farms and transmission cabling back to shore.

Worldwide, Denmark decided as early as 1991 that it could develop an OSW industry. Necessity is the mother of invention. Denmark (as well as other European nations with lots of coastline relative to their interior area) set out to find alternatives for power production.

Santee Cooper was an early state leader to study carbon-free and lower carbon generating technologies. This was a critical time in the development of various industries that have become “clean power.”

Some  carbon-abating projects have succeeded and some have not. The push for lower carbon options for power generation has outlasted many political shifts at state, federal and international levels.

Santee Cooper has cooperated with other state entities to develop information that is foundational to OSW development: Coastal Carolina University, North Myrtle Beach, Savannah River National Lab, S.C. Energy Office and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

This includes federal agencies charged with overseeing OSW development: U.S. Department of Energy and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. As a result, many key people have become educated about OSW and its considerations.  This is the right way to approach a new technology, education first and opinions later.  A few states have suffered when opinions (and fear) got ahead of the education.

How can South Carolina benefit from this surge in OSW development? Our state has many companies who already supply the wind industry. Check this map to see for yourself. Nexans High Voltage already has an option to expand its facility in Charleston to produce submarine cable for the U.S. market, which is spooled directly from the plant onto a specialized ship in the Cooper River nearby. The “smart money” in the world is betting for this industry to grow.

South Carolina doesn’t have land-based wind that is now economical, but as costs for wind installation decline it will be interesting to see which, land-based or ocean-based turbines- becomes viable first.