New North Carolina offshore study

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will deploy two large buoys 20-miles (32.1km) off the Atlantic coast to capture wind, temperature and barometric pressure data for ongoing offshore wind energy research.

The buoys, one tonne each, will be deployed either this week or next. They will be located 80 miles apart, one north of Cape Hatteras off Oregon Inlet and the other southwest of Cape Hatteras off Ocracoke Island.

They will be moored for about one year, according to the Department of Marine Sciences in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“The information from the buoys will fill a critical gap in our knowledge of the wind field offshore of North Carolina, and will also provide real-time information on conditions in a very busy and dynamic area of the coastal ocean,” says Department of Marine Sciences chairman Harvey Seim.

Cameras attached to the buoys will take still images of weather conditions hourly during the daytime. The buoys will also transmit real-time data via satellite to the National Weather Service and National Data Buoy Center, both divisions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

North Carolina has the best wind resource along the US East Coast, according to estimates by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The US Interior Department has proposed commercial wind energy development in three areas it has identified in federal waters off North Carolina – one facing Kitty Hawk and the others south of Wilmington.

It is reviewing public comment on their possible development and doing an environmental assessment.

In 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly asked UNC to assess the feasibility of wind energy off the N.C. coast. Seim led that effort and a full report was published in 2009.

Duke Energy later sought to place three utility-scale wind turbines in eastern Pamlico Sound, but abandoned the effort citing high costs. Pamlico Sound is a large, shallow body of salt water between the mainland and the Outer Banks, a string of narrow barrier islands facing the ocean.