Wind energy industry already boosting Sanford economy

October 31, 2021 | Written by: sanford-user

By April Montgomery, Chair, Sanford Area Growth Alliance

There may not be any wind turbines spinning in Sanford’s skies, but the industry is already putting some proverbial wind in our area’s economic sails. Sanford is home to a local manufacturing company, SpanSet, that is part of the wind energy supply chain, employing our residents and boosting our economy. That company attracted the attention of state and federal lawmakers last week, including Senator Deviere, Senator Woodard and staff to State Representative Larry Strickland and Congressman Richard Hudson, who came to Sanford for a glimpse of how the industry is making an impact. The onshore wind business is already a boon, and as the nation increases its focus on offshore wind, there will be ripple effects along the East Coast – and in North Carolina in particular – that open the door for even more economic development opportunities here in Sanford and all across the state.

North Carolina has a unique value proposition to the offshore wind industry. We’ve got the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast, world-class university and community college systems to train for good-paying industry jobs, and exceptional infrastructure to support the industry through our ports, rail lines, highways and air routes. We’re also already home to more than 55 existing land-based wind supply chain companies. We can leverage these advantages, using them as a springboard into the benefits offshore wind will bring. These are benefits worth pursuing, too, with a 2019 report estimating that the offshore wind industry will create more than $70 billion in capital expenditure opportunities for U.S businesses in the offshore wind supply chain by 2030. A piece of that can be ours.

In addition to the manufacturing opportunities, North Carolina has the fifth highest offshore wind resource potential in the country, putting us in a position to benefit from pursuing construction of offshore wind turbines off our shores. Offshore wind projects would provide pollution-free power to North Carolina communities, and they have been shown to boost tourism to local coastal communities. A study conducted by the University of Rhode Island indicated a 19 percent increase in occupancy rates and $3,490 increase in annual rental revenue for AirBnB properties on Block Island after the construction of that wind farm. They also saw a boost in recreational fishing and helicopter tour charters.

The offshore wind industry is off to a running start. Technology is constantly improving, costs are falling, and prospects of an entirely new, multi-billion dollar domestic manufacturing industry are propelling the sector forward. North Carolina is taking strides to seize our share of this new market, including entering into a regional collaboration to promote, develop, and expand offshore wind and the manufacturing supply chain, and to train the needed workforce. But the clock is ticking. It’s time for North Carolina to move beyond the study phase and actively, assertively pursue the economic opportunities that will bolster our economy, employ our people, and advance our state into the cleaner, more affordable energy future that offshore wind provides.