The Southeast coast has potential for offshore wind energy but the industry faces challenges including a regulatory environment that offers little incentive for developing such power, attendees at the Southeastern Coastal Wind Conference were told Wednesday.
Speakers also said there needs to be more research on offshore conditions to determine the best kind of turbines that will hold up to the winds and waves of tropical storms and hurricanes.
“Offshore wind in the Southeast is an enormous opportunity,” said Brian O’Hara, the president of the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition which is sponsoring the day-and-a-half conference.
The group says about 60 percent of offshore wind resources that can be tapped on the East Coast are between Virginia and Georgia.
Perrin Dargan of Charleston, an attorney who works for the international law firm of K&L Gates, said in a regulated market, utility companies control generation, distribution and the sale of power. In other states such as in the Northeast, third parties can finance and develop wind projects and sell the power to electric companies.
In South Carolina, lawmakers have allowed utility companies that are currently building nuclear plants to pass along plant construction costs to customers while they are being built. Such a rule for development of offshore wind power would spur the industry because of the upfront costs, he added.