South Carolina is moving forward with an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes significant investments in offshore wind exploration and development, which is good news for our economy, as well as the future of energy production in the Palmetto State. The passage of H. 4831 earlier this summer is a clear indicator that state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are ready to unlock our state’s offshore wind energy potential.
Sponsored by State Rep. Jason Elliott, R-Greenville, and signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster in June, H. 4831 directs the South Carolina Department of Commerce to conduct an economic development study on the feasibility of offshore wind energy development along the South Carolina coast. Expanding our offshore wind energy infrastructure would help increase our production of clean, emissions-free electricity while spurring economic activity up and down the supply chain.
How? Increasing our offshore wind presence would help grow South Carolina’s clean energy economy, creating 21st-century jobs and attracting new businesses — or strengthening existing ones — that manufacture the various parts needed to maintain this critical infrastructure. At the same time, expanding our offshore wind energy infrastructure could help reduce energy costs and lower bills for South Carolina consumers and businesses.
It is no wonder then that the potential for developing our offshore wind capabilities enjoys such widespread support. Both Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature have made that support more than clear by passing H. 4831. Moreover, a range of environmental and economic groups — from the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce to the South Carolina Energy Office — all agree that developing and expanding upon our offshore wind energy infrastructure is the right thing to do from the economic and environmental perspectives.
Additionally, a recent wind energy auction held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management illustrates the economic and clean energy potential of developing South Carolina’s offshore wind capabilities. In the BOEM auction held earlier this year, two energy companies bid a total of $315 million for the rights to produce wind energy just off the coast of North and South Carolina. Once fully developed, those leases could produce enough wind energy to power half a million homes with clean, low-emissions electricity. Just think of the potential if we continue exploring and developing our offshore wind resources.
An investment in our offshore wind infrastructure is an investment in our state’s economic and environmental future. That’s another reason why passage of last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was so important. On top of investing in modernizing our entire energy infrastructure to make incorporating offshore wind into our energy mix easier and more efficient, the new law also dedicates billions of dollars worth of investments in building out our port infrastructure to support offshore wind.
These are the kinds of federal investments and support we will need if we want to continue building a stronger, more sustainable future for all South Carolinians. The new infrastructure law will help bring us closer to realizing our full offshore wind energy potential, reinvigorating local economies and continuing our transition to cleaner sources of energy. Senator Lindsey Graham should be commended for all his hard work across the aisle and leadership in Washington to shape a strong infrastructure law that benefits South Carolina communities.
Written by Adam B. Jones, ACEC-SC
ACEC-SC Executive Director