Southeast coalition embraces wind energy

The southeastern United States, long seen as unfriendly territory for the domestic wind industry, has a new organization trying to change that perception and build economic opportunities in the region.

A regional coalition will focus on advancing the coastal and offshore wind industry in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. The Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition will explore opportunities for regional collaboration among both the public and private sectors, including a focus on ways to grow the wind industry manufacturing base in the region.

This follows by a few months the first national wind industry event when the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) held its annual conference in Atlanta in June. While the conference did not draw especially well, AWEA said it chose the venue to highlight the growing importance of the domestic manufacturing bases dedicate to wind, including, by its count, 100 factories in the Southeast in the wind component supply chain.

The group plans to work closely with utilities to explore options for building the industry.  “We recognize the important role the electric utilities play in the Southeast,” said Brian O’Hara, President of the Coalition, citing the Coalition’s focus on solutions that provide net economic benefits to citizens, ratepayers, utilities, and industry members.  “Benefits could include new jobs in manufacturing, construction, and operations; reduced pollution and water use; and use of a domestic energy resource with no fuel cost.”

The Coalition plans to conduct little to no lobbying. It will be a resource for highlighting the competitive advantages of the Southeast.  “This region has some very compelling strengths, including competitive labor markets, an enormous offshore wind resource, and the lowest estimated construction costs on the East Coast,” said Jen Banks, Wind Coordinator at the NC Solar Center and Director of Operations for the Coalition. “That’s why there are already several thousand wind industry jobs in the Southeast.”

Members of the Coalition will include businesses, industry members, economic developers, academic institutions, and non-profits that support development of the wind industry. More information can be found at the Coalition’s website, www.secoastalwind.org.