Article

State leaders need to develop responsible wind energy policy

Lawmakers need to clarify the law, while not completely shutting the door on all wind power in the mountains. Wind turbines, particularly for private homes or small operations, could help reduce the need for coal-fired electric plants down the road. Wind won't replace oil or natural gas anytime soon, but like solar power and other alternative energy sources, we need to explore all avenues.

Wind blows across the mountains of Western North Carolina, promising a clean alternative energy source without the downsides of coal pried from blasted mountaintops or oil from the offshore drilling catastrophe that continues to spew from the Gulf of Mexico. But can we harness the clean energy of the wind without fouling up the mountaintops and views that draw millions of visitors to our region each year?

Raleigh probably won't decide that issue this summer as a Senate bill passed last year that would effectively ban commercial wind farms in the mountains has stalled in the House. Faced with patching an $800 million shortfall in a nearly $19 billion budget, lawmakers have focused their energies on keeping North Carolina schools and other vital services operating without raising taxes on hard-hit Tar Heel residents.

Deciding a coherent policy for wind power statewide will have to wait until another day.

Sens. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, and Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, are right to insist that our mountaintops must be preserved to protect jobs in tourism and real estate that depend on those magnificent views. They are building on the 1983 Mountain Ridge Protection Act, which was passed... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Wind blows across the mountains of Western North Carolina, promising a clean alternative energy source without the downsides of coal pried from blasted mountaintops or oil from the offshore drilling catastrophe that continues to spew from the Gulf of Mexico. But can we harness the clean energy of the wind without fouling up the mountaintops and views that draw millions of visitors to our region each year?

Raleigh probably won't decide that issue this summer as a Senate bill passed last year that would effectively ban commercial wind farms in the mountains has stalled in the House. Faced with patching an $800 million shortfall in a nearly $19 billion budget, lawmakers have focused their energies on keeping North Carolina schools and other vital services operating without raising taxes on hard-hit Tar Heel residents.

Deciding a coherent policy for wind power statewide will have to wait until another day.

Sens. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, and Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, are right to insist that our mountaintops must be preserved to protect jobs in tourism and real estate that depend on those magnificent views. They are building on the 1983 Mountain Ridge Protection Act, which was passed after a 10-story condominium tower on Sugar Mountain in Avery County brought howls of protest. That law prohibited any structures rising 35 feet above ridges above 3,000 feet in the 25 mountain counties but did exempt flagpoles, church steeples and windmills.

Attorney General Roy Cooper later stepped in and said the law applied only to residential and private windmills but outlawed commercial turbines. Cooper left open the possibility that certain sites already marked by development or mining might be suitable for a wind farm, but in the last 30 years, the law has remained ambiguous.

Lawmakers need to clarify the law, while not completely shutting the door on all wind power in the mountains. Wind turbines, particularly for private homes or small operations, could help reduce the need for coal-fired electric plants down the road. Wind won't replace oil or natural gas anytime soon, but like solar power and other alternative energy sources, we need to explore all avenues.

Surveys have shown support among WNC residents for responsible wind energy development, said Dennis Scanlin, an Appalachian State University technology professor who has argued the region boasts some of the nation's best wind resources. "Responsible" is a key word here.

No one should be thinking about turbines atop Mount Mitchell or Grandfather Mountain, our region's tallest peaks with the highest wind gusts, and we don't need 200-foot turbines atop our other ridges. But we find places for transmission lines and cell phone towers among our mountains. ASU boasts the state's largest wind turbine with a 100-kilowatt system mounted on a 155-foot tower at Broyhill Inn and Conference Center.

ASU researchers estimate that placing commercial turbines in areas that wouldn't harm views from the Blue Ridge Parkway or parks could still generate 760 megawatts - enough electricity for up to 230,000 homes.
But while the mountains of Western North Carolina hold promise for wind power, mountain senators rightly point to the coast as a better prospect. Progress Energy is matching federal stimulus funds for a $600,000 study of North Carolina's offshore wind resources. With the hazards of offshore oil drilling apparent from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it makes sense to see how electricity could be generated from the ample wind resources from the Atlantic Ocean.

Balancing the beauty of the region, which is an economic asset, against the need for alternative energy that can help relieve our dependence on fossil fuels won't be easy, but we urge lawmakers to take up the issue again, creating a coherent wind power policy for the entire state.


Source: http://www.citizen-times.co...

JUL 2 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27009-state-leaders-need-to-develop-responsible-wind-energy-policy
back to top