Will offshore wind turbines help the SC economy?

Wind energy has the potential to create thousands of jobs in South Carolina. A new study shows offshore wind farms could have a huge economic impact on the state.

The study from the Clemson University Restoration Institute says the construction and maintenance of a 1,000 megawatt wind farm off the coast would create more than 3,879 jobs, $1.96 billion in wages over ten years, and more than $616 million in tax revenue.

The Clemson study shows 33 firms in the state already spend all or part of their time on wind energy production.

Dr. Paul Gayes of Coastal Carolina University's Center for Marine and Wetland Studies says South Carolina has nearly the strongest wind resource on the East Coast, with a great opportunity to build an industry around it.

"It's valid that there's a significant amount of industry that's already in the state. It's a potential to rally around and really build a cluster, an economic cluster within the state and the region in general," said Gayes.

Gayes says the Grand Strand has shallow water far into the ocean, making it cheaper to build wind turbines offshore.

So if there's such great potential for offshore wind energy, why isn't it being done?

A spokesperson for one environmental group blames the state's power companies.

"I don't think the utilities have taken the leadership that they need to take in order for this state to move forward. We have to have the utilities there with us," said Nancy Cave of the Coastal Conservation League.

Santee Cooper officials say they are helping lead the way on wind energy, cooperating on offshore wind studies with CCU and Clemson.

Gayes says the state needs to offer tax breaks and other incentives to encourage wind production, like other states have done.

"These early states to get in are often the ones that benefit the most economically. You've got to invest to get that benefit."