NC Coastal Wind Demonstration Project


Following a nine-month feasibility study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, university researchers teamed with Duke Energy on a demonstration project to place three wind turbines in the Pamlico Sound about 8 miles from the Outer Banks community of Buxton, NC.

The turbines will facilitate the state’s efforts to develop renewable energy sources by studying the feasibility of larger scale wind turbines in coastal waters. The turbines may be the first placed in water in the United States. Duke Energy will pay for the turbines and their installation.

UNC Demonstration Project Research

UNC will conduct research that leverages Duke Energy’s investment.  A variety of studies are possible; among those being considered are:

  • What are appropriate methodologies to establish how turbines impact marine mammals, fish, birds, bats, and sea turtles?
  • How does day-to-day wind energy availability vary and how can wind energy resources be best measured and modeled?
  • How will offshore conditions, including winds, currents, and wildlife and shipping, affect operations and maintenance of the turbines?
  • How do the turbines, including the foundations, respond under tropical storm conditions?  What design standards are most appropriate for the US?
  • How do the costs of the project compare with existing cost models and can the models be improved?

To enable this research, a broad collaboration has been developed involving universities (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, RENCI–the Renaissance Computing Institute–and East Carolina University); industry  (Duke Energy and its contractors) and government (the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab). All these partners are developing proposal concepts.

RENCI’s  Role

Dan Bedard and Kevin Gamiel of  RENCI will identify and deploy a suite of meteorological tools and ecological measurement equipment that will be placed on a 100-meter meteorology tower and an 800-sqaure-foot research platform that will sit in the water near the turbines. This equipment will measure winds, temperature, precipitation, subsurface currents and wave activity. In addition, a radar system, acoustic monitoring, and thermographic and visual imaging equipment will detect bird, bat, fish and marine mammal activity and document the impact of the turbines on these species.

RENCI Senior Scientist Brian Blanton assisted the project early on by summarizing the tropical storm hazard in the Pamlico Sound, using models developed for the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Project.

Project Lead

Harvey Seim, UNC Chapel Hill


  • Dan Bedard
  • Brian Blanton
  • Josh Coyle
  • Kevin Gamiel
  • Karen Green
  • Joe E. Hope
  • David Knowles


  • Duke Energy
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • North Carolina State University
  • East Carolina University
  • DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory