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Test site for wind farm draws varied comments

Governor Beverly Perdue, Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, and Representative Tim Spear hosted the meeting at Cape Hatteras Secondary School. "If water levels are rising as predicted and we take no action, we will have made a terrible mistake for the people who come after us," Basnight said in opening remarks to a crowd of more than 250 people assembled in the school auditorium.

Construction of a demonstration wind energy project in Pamlico Sound could begin as early as next year, according to state officials who met with Outer Banks residents to discuss offshore wind energy Friday.

Governor Beverly Perdue, Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, and Representative Tim Spear hosted the meeting at Cape Hatteras Secondary School.

"If water levels are rising as predicted and we take no action, we will have made a terrible mistake for the people who come after us," Basnight said in opening remarks to a crowd of more than 250 people assembled in the school auditorium.

Perdue told the audience that the state could position itself as a leader in "green energy," developing innovative ways that would help the environment and also create jobs.

"Make no mistake though, every governor in America is thinking about this. North Carolina has to do as much as we can do safely or we will fail," she said.

The Pamlico Sound demonstration project would be located seven to 10 miles offshore between Avon and Buxton and would consist of as many as three turbines, explained Harvey Seim, a marine science professor at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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Construction of a demonstration wind energy project in Pamlico Sound could begin as early as next year, according to state officials who met with Outer Banks residents to discuss offshore wind energy Friday.

Governor Beverly Perdue, Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, and Representative Tim Spear hosted the meeting at Cape Hatteras Secondary School.

"If water levels are rising as predicted and we take no action, we will have made a terrible mistake for the people who come after us," Basnight said in opening remarks to a crowd of more than 250 people assembled in the school auditorium.

Perdue told the audience that the state could position itself as a leader in "green energy," developing innovative ways that would help the environment and also create jobs.

"Make no mistake though, every governor in America is thinking about this. North Carolina has to do as much as we can do safely or we will fail," she said.

The Pamlico Sound demonstration project would be located seven to 10 miles offshore between Avon and Buxton and would consist of as many as three turbines, explained Harvey Seim, a marine science professor at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Duke Energy and UNC-Chapel Hill are putting the final touches on a contract for the energy company to build the towers. Officials said they still need to determine what permits would be needed for the test site because the state has no regulatory framework for development of wind farms.

The project would provide researchers with more information on environmental impacts, operation and maintenance, and other issues, and could lead to full-blown farms in the sound or in the ocean.

A UNC-Chapel Hill feasibility study released in August found that large areas of Pamlico and Albemarle sounds and some parts of the ocean are incompatible with wind farms due to limited wind resources, ecological impacts on birds, fish and critical habitat, close proximity to cultural artifacts such as shipwrecks, or conflict with military operations, commercial fishing and recreational activities.

Seim said the wind resource over the ocean waters off North Carolina "is among the best along the eastern seaboard."

Frisco resident Johnny Baum urged researchers to pay heed to the weather conditions that can strike the Cape Hatteras area.

"Hurricane resistance is very important here," he said, during the public comment period of the meeting.

Seim said the UNC-Chapel Hill study found that an offshore wind farm might create 9,000 permanent jobs.

But Ted Vogel who developed the state's largest wind turbine located in Camden County, cautioned that North Carolina doesn't have enough workers trained in turbine technology and would end up importing workers.

"I'm worried about the visible pollution of these sites, " said Stewart Couch, owner of Hatteras Realty. Couch urged the state to study the economic impact of wind farms on tourism and on property values.

Some members of the audience raised concerns about the cost of electricity supplied by wind farms.

"Offshore wind power will cost more, and the economy here is already hurting," said Frisco resident Virginia Luizer. She also said any further studies should be put on hold until the state received assurance that environmental groups and federal agencies would not protest development of wind farms due to habitat protection concerns.

But William Howard of Ocracoke disagreed.

"The cost of investment is far less than the cost of inaction. We must change the way we think and account for all costs, including environmental degradation and war and protecting areas overseas," Howard said.

Jim Kinghorn, general manager of Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, said wind farms might lower the cost of electricity on the island very slightly. He said they could help the cooperative come into compliance with a state law requiring utilities to buy 10 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2018.

Most speakers indicated that they supported the concept of developing renewable energy sources, but they still had many questions for state officials.

Rom Whitaker, a Hatteras charter-boat captain and avid hunter, said he wanted to know whether access to areas around turbines for fishermen, hunters and other traditional users would be restricted.

Pete Peterson, a UNC-CH scientist who worked on the feasibility study, said access for fishermen would be regulated by the state Marine Fisheries Commission. He said judging from experiences in other places, trawling, gill neeting, crab potting, and recreational fishing shouldn't be impacted, but long hauling and dredging could be restricted in the area.

Allen Burrus, member of the Dare County Commissioners, urged the state to make wind energy development a transparent process with information easily available to the public.

Elfland, the demonstration project manager, said the meeting Friday was only the first step in actively engaging stakeholders.

The Coastal Wind Study report is available at http://www.climate.unc.edu/coastal-wind.


Source: http://obsentinel.womacknew...

OCT 7 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22545-test-site-for-wind-farm-draws-varied-comments
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