North Carolina Sea Grant
Coastwatch Currents

Coastwatch Currents

October 27, 2014 | Rebecca Nagy


Question: What will fuel the global demand for energy in the future: oil, gas, coal, nuclear, biomass, solar, wind?

Answer: All of the above — according to energy industry leaders and others gathered at The Coastal Energy Summit presented recently by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Lisa Schiavinato

Rob Kaiser, co-owner and publisher of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, and Lisa Schiavinato.

Gov. Pat McCrory was among speakers who addressed the possibilities for offshore resource exploration, now that the federal government:

Additionally, land-based wind, nuclear, solar and biomass technological advancements, and a proposed natural gas pipeline are factors in ongoing coastal energy discussions.

Lisa Schiavinato, North Carolina Sea Grant’s law, policy and community development specialist, was among experts addressing opportunities, timelines, and policy implications of energy initiatives on the state’s horizon.

Schiavinato, who also serves as co-director of the N.C. Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center, has done extensive research and analysis of the potential for coastal wind energy projects in North Carolina.

“It’s exciting to be part of a diverse discussion about the state’s energy needs and opportunities,” Schiavinato said of the summit. “It provided an overview of where we are now and where we are going. It also whet the appetite for further discussion to address how we will get there.”

One needed step is forging a comprehensive state energy policy that recognizes federal, state and local government jurisdictions and balances economic interests with environmental concerns.

“It’s important for North Carolina not only to have a place at the table, but to have a voice in discussions that shape future energy policies that protect the state’s interests,” she said.

How the policy is interpreted to the public also will be extremely important.

“The public will need to be assured that the state is pursuing a holistic energy policy based on law, reliable research and data analysis, and best management practices for the use of all energy resources,” Schiavinato pointed out.

While constructing wind farms along North Carolina’s coast is years away, Schiavinato said it’s important to learn from processes and projects under way in other coastal areas. The primary lesson may be one of patience.

For example, the Cape Wind project off Cape Cod has been on the drawing board for more than a decade, with the proposal moving among federal oversight agencies while federal guidelines coalesced.

130 turbines are poised for construction 4.5 miles from shore in Nantucket Sound and Horseshoe Shoals. The first offshore operation of its kind in the country, it is projected to produce 75 percent of the energy needs for Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.

Panelist Brian O’Hara, president and founder of the Southeast Coastal Wind Coalition, said the biggest challenge for offshore wind farms is cost. “The industry is making great strides in bringing costs down.”

For example, he suggests that energy generated from wind farms within in two study areas off the coast of Wilmington potentially could offset development costs in a very few years.

Additionally, design standards and the science of site selection for wind turbines are addressing concerns raised by critics. These include potential harm to avian and marine life; resilience to major weather events; and deference to commercial and military shipping lanes.

“Coastal states need to make certain their interests are protected. The issue is how we nurture the offshore energy industry in a way that protects current industries, such as tourism and fishing,” Schiavinto said.

Lisa Schiavinato develops partnerships with federal, state and local agencies to address North Carolina’s coastal and ocean policy issues. Her recent projects have analyzed North Carolina’s coastal wind energy potential, recommended ocean management strategies and recommended strategies for managing the state’s estuarine shoreline.

The North Carolina Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center, an inter-institutional organization that coordinates and applies the legal, planning and policy expertise of the University of North Carolina System and North Carolina Sea Grant to the state’s coastal issues.

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