UNC, Duke Energy to Develop Coastal Wind Pilot Project

In a pilot project designed to harness the power of the ocean breezes along North Carolina’s coast, UNC and Duke Energy have signed a contract to place up to three demonstration wind turbines in the Pamlico Sound.

The project builds on a nine-month study completed in June by UNC for the N.C. General Assembly that found “North Carolina is well-positioned to develop utility-scale wind energy production.”

These demonstration turbines may be the first turbines placed in water in the U.S., providing UNC with an opportunity for ongoing research about issues raised in its coastal wind study. Duke Energy will pay for the turbines and their installation. UNC will continue its research throughout the project.

“This project is a great example of how university research can expand our understanding of an issue — in this case, wind energy,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86. “Then an industry partner like Duke Energy can use that research to do what they do best and develop this on a larger scale.”

The pilot turbine installation is expected to facilitate utility-scale wind energy development by enabling studies to optimize measuring and predicting the wind resource, quantifying ecological impacts, and demonstrating turbine performance in tropical storm conditions.

“We are looking forward to working with UNC and residents of the Outer Banks to determine if and how we can use wind energy on a larger scale,” said Brett Carter, president of Duke Energy Carolinas. “Our company has experience developing land-based wind in other parts of the country, and we are excited about this pilot project and learning more about how we can use this renewable resource in our home state.”

In September, government leaders and representatives from UNC and Duke Energy met on the Outer Banks to get community feedback on the pilot project. Over the coming weeks and months, UNC and Duke Energy will continue to seek out community comments and answer questions about the project.

“This project is the critical step that will determine the future of wind power off the Outer Banks,” Sen. Marc Basnight said. “It will allow for community feedback and collaboration, and it will be a very positive information-finding effort. People will be able to view the turbines working and we will gain a greater understanding of how to use wind as a renewable energy source. What we learn from this project will chart the future of offshore wind energy for our state, and I am excited that the Outer Banks is a part of this effort.”

Places with the best conditions for producing constant, strong winds include rounded hilltops, mountain gaps, open plains, shorelines and over the ocean. To generate power from these winds, a wind turbine uses specially shaped blades that connect to a drive shaft that then turns an electric generator to produce electricity. When turbines are clustered together, sometimes dozens at a time to harness the wind in the same site, the result is called a wind power plant or a wind farm.

Although wind power produced only about 1.5 percent of the world’s electricity in 2008, its usage doubled between 2005 and 2008, according to a report by the nonprofit World Wind Energy Association. Duke Energy has 634 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind energy in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming, another 99 MW under construction and an additional 251 MW of wind projects scheduled to begin operation in 2010.

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