MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A federal wind energy project off of the Carolina coast could lower energy bills for consumers.

The federal government announced Friday it will have auctions for two offshore areas in May, which could pave the way for a wind project capable of powering 500,000 homes. The Atlantic Ocean is what made the Grand Strand famous, and now Myrtle Beach’s biggest asset is one step closer to being home to renewable energy.

“This is a huge step in the process that’s been going on for 20 years,” said Paul Gayes, director of CCU’s Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies. “It’s looking at the capacity and potential for wind energy off the coast.”

The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it’ll have its first wind energy auction for two lease areas offshore on May 11, which will allow wind developers to bid on one or both of the areas.

Gayes said the two areas are between Wilmington, North Carolina, and Myrtle Beach.

“Here we have a very flat and shallow shelf, so you can go very far offshore and you’re using very traditional tower technology,” Gayes said. “You don’t have to do much more expensive floating towers.”

Gayes said the wind project could bring major economic benefits to the area.

“Folks that go out and service these things are built — they have to be maintained,” Gayes said. “They have to be operated. So these kinds of jobs will likely be here in terms of keeping them going. The jobs on land, machine shops.”

The lease area covers 110,000 acres in the Carolina Long Bay area and could result in at least 1.3 gigawatts of offshore wind energy.

“Looking at the projections of how many gigawatts you’re going to need, then what are your options,” Gayes said. “So wind and solar — big options for the region and you’re seeing that expand quite a bit.”

Gayes said a lot still needs to happen before we see anything.

“It is not going to happen tomorrow,” he said. “There’s a lot of required studies that have to be done in terms of impacts, any number of engineering efforts and permitting applications that go on. So it’ll take several years until we see something spinning but it is an enormous step forward and has significant impact to our region.”

Gayes added that the southeast could be more ready for new energy sources since its power grid is newer than other regions.