A wind farm off the coast of the U.K. | Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

A presidential memorandum that halts offshore drilling and testing off South Carolina waters also puts an end to the burgeoning offshore wind industry, clean energy advocates say.

It was supposed to be good news for conservationists: President Donald Trump signed earlier this month a memo halting new leases for offshore drilling exploration for South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida from July 1, 2022, until June 30, 2032.

Sure, it could easily be undone with another memo, it doesn’t apply to any current leases already issued, and it wouldn’t stop seismic testing completely. But it was something and appeared to be in the direction South Carolina officials have pushed: putting an end to drill, baby, drill in Palmetto waters. 

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s (SACE) Chris Carnevale of Charleston said he was “surprised” by the moratorium. 

 “When that came out, my brain was not even thinking about offshore wind,” he said.

Turns out, that got banned too, Bloomberg News reported this week.

“The withdrawal includes all energy leasing, including conventional and renewable energy, beginning on July 1, 2022,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokeswoman Tracey Moriarty told Bloomberg News. 

South Carolina has been hailed as a potential offshore wind energy leader in recent years. A 2019 report said the state could land a $70 billion industry, create thousands of jobs, and generate more power than its consumers needed.

“South Carolina has worked for over a decade to get prepared for offshore wind energy,” Carnevale said. “We have a number of businesses in South Carolina that are in the wind energy supply chain.”

North Charleston is home to a wind turbine research center with Clemson University, making it a key spot for wind power innovation. 

“Delaying or halting development of local offshore wind energy could mean potentially less of a developing local market for the facility,” said SACE’s Jennifer S. Rennicks of Asheville.

Carnevale said the Trump memo shows that elections have consequences. 

“(The ban) can be undone as easily as it was done,” Carnevale said. “With a stroke of a pen, he can just change it … It is in the hands of the president.”

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