Could you use a nice breeze these days? Us too, as Sunday’s editorial explains:
It’s hot. And sticky. There’s little to no rain on the horizon. And none of us like it much.
If you don’t believe us, check Twitter. Online salons such as Twitter and Facebook have tallied more than 4 million references to the heat so far this month, according to Mastermind Marketing, which tracks social media. The weather is outpacing talk of the debt ceiling in Washington 24 to 1.
What happens when the nation gets overheated? We close the doors and windows and crank up the air conditioning. Power companies across the country are reporting record demand, and some areas have experienced periodic brownouts as a result.
All of which leads us to reflect once more on the wisdom of expanding our power generating options. One alternative that’s particularly appealing in our area is wind, and we’ve supported the efforts in both North Myrtle Beach and Georgetown County to explore the exciting possibilities of this resource.
A conference in June brought together 12 organizations from both Carolinas with the goal of speeding development of wind energy generation off our coast. This sort of collaboration is an important first step in building the expertise and knowledge to leverage this resource, and the list of attendees shows a group capable of doing more than just dream: Coastal Carolina University, the U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River National Laboratory, Santee Cooper, N.C. Offshore Wind Coalition, N.C. Department of Commerce, S.C. Energy Office, Clemson University Restoration Institute, S.C. Coastal Conservation League, N.C. Solar Center, N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, North Strand Coastal Wind Team and the city of North Myrtle Beach.
Some of the organizations will be on hand at 6 p.m. Monday for a public offshore wind energy forum at the Historic Train Depot in Myrtle Beach. It’s a good opportunity for interested residents to learn more about the emerging industry and what role we can play in supporting its development.
North Myrtle Beach and the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce have been admirable pioneers in this field, not only in our region, but in the nation, hosting a wind energy conference last year, and positioning themselves as a possible hub of wind energy work in the Carolinas.
CCU’s involvement is similarly encouraging, not least because this still developing field will need well-trained students, and providing that schooling here could provide us with a vital knowledge base from which to begin building the industry. Paul Gayes, director of CCU’s Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetlands Studies, drove home that point in talking about the recent conference. The center has been collaborating with others across the state “for six or seven years, trying to realize the full potential of our offshore renewable energy resources,” said Gayes. “Engaging Coastal Carolina students in that process, exposing them to the developing real world needs and helping develop the scientists and technical leaders needed to lead the project in the future are rewarding and enduring products of our efforts.”
Those efforts should produce much more than hot air. A report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that 33 percent of the total East Coast offshore wind energy within 50 miles of the shoreline is located off the coast of the Carolinas.
“Based on the report, North Carolina and South Carolina have the largest offshore wind energy resources in shallow water on the Atlantic Seaboard,” said Ralph Nichols, wind energy program manager at the Savannah River National Laboratory, in a news release about the recent conference.
The Carolinas start to look even better when the numbers are crunched a bit futher. The report estimated that the Carolinas hold more than half of the East Coast wind energy in shallow water less than 30 meters deep – an important consideration for those building wind turbines – and more than 12 miles from shore – an important consideration for those who may not want to see the turbines from the beach.
But even beyond tapping into a new energy resource – an important goal in itself – the development of a wind energy industry would mean more jobs for the region. “This is an industry where about 10 percent of the cost is materials and 90 percent is labor, and that represents a significant advantage for the lower-cost labor markets of the Southeast to attract manufacturing,” said Jen Banks of the N.C. Solar Center.
North Myrtle Beach has positioned itself well to take advantage of that possibility to boost employment, and we’re excited to watch as the work continues to unfold.