City opposition threatens to sink North Carolina offshore wind project

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — An offshore wind farm that could power hundreds of thousands of homes is hitting a road block.

In another blow to offshore wind developments in North Carolina, Virginia Beach city leaders told the developers behind the Kitty Hawk Wind Development the project does not have enough support for a massive transmission cable project that would connect the electricity generated offshore to the power grid.

The project aims to install 180 wind turbines 27 miles off the coast of the Outer Banks. Avangrid, the Connecticut-based developer, says the land lease area has the capacity to produce 3.5 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 1 million homes. To get that electricity on the grid, developers proposed a 36-mile underwater transmission cable that would connect to a substation in Sandbridge, Virginia, through a municipal parking lot.

In its presentation to the city council, Avangrid said Sandbridge is the most feasible location for the cable landing because it avoids wildlife conservation areas along the Outer Banks, it is an already developed area, it has available acreage for construction, it’s close to a substation, and it would have the least significant environmental impact.

People who live in Virginia Beach, and particularly in the Sandbridge area, voiced concerns about the impact the cables and construction would have on the character of the beach community and its tourism. Developers said Avangrid would aim to install the cables during a one-time construction period between October and May, no earlier than 2026.

In November, city leaders told Avangrid they do not believe the project has enough support to go forward with Sandbridge as its cable-landing site. Council has not yet voted on the project.

Craig Gilvarg, a spokesperson from Avangrid said in a statement, the developers are still focused on trying to move the project forward in a way that satisfies Virginia Beach.

“Avangrid is committed to our ongoing, collaborative relationship and addressing any and all concerns raised by members of the council,” Gilvarg said. “We remain committed to frequent and robust public engagement throughout the development of this critical project, and will continue to engage with local leaders and stakeholders to bring this substantial, clean, and cost-effective energy to the region.”

This is the latest in a series of setbacks to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s clean energy goals. In 2021, he signed an executive order setting a goal to establish 2.8 GW of offshore wind developments off the coast of North Carolina by 2030.

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management blocked leases for two offshore wind sites due to concerns the turbines would impact military radar systems.

Without the Kitty Hawk project, no current offshore wind development is on track to come online before that deadline. Another North Carolina project, off the coast of Wilmington, is in the very beginning stages of project development. Duke Energy is one of the leaseholders and its Carolina Resource Plan to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, marks the project as a long-term development for 2033 or later.

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Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.