Articles filed under General from North Carolina
For more than a year, a tiny Chapel Hill company has been laying plans for a project that would catapult North Carolina into a national leadership role in offshore wind energy development. Outer Banks Ocean Energy Corp. is eyeing federal waters about 25 miles offshore to chase a dream of harnessing pollution-free electricity generated by some of the nation's best wind resources. An offshore wind farm has yet to be built in this country, and the hurdles are formidable.
After measuring wind value and eliminating conflicts with bird migratory patterns, fish habitat and military air space, a new state coastal wind study says the best spot for utility-scale wind energy is in the sound off Buxton. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill feasibility study, requested last year by state Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Manteo, found that most other state waters are unsuitable for wind-energy development.
The answer to North Carolina's green energy challenge is blowing in the wind-swept mesas of Texas. With the first deadlines fast approaching for North Carolina's renewable energy targets, power companies in this state are snapping up green certificates from out-of-state wind farms. The certificates don't buy electricity, but pay for credits needed to meet state targets.
It was a substantial platform on 16 pilings in the Pamlico Sound, built by a collaborative of North Carolina academic research scientists. A fiberglass instrument house was bolted to the platform, a wireless communication system and an antenna were in place, and a wind turbine and high-efficiency solar panels had just been installed. A product of a state initiative to spur innovative research, the 18- by-18-foot structure was ready for the installation of cutting-edge data collection instruments. That is, until a 71-foot steel trawler plowed it all down.
On a day when the North Carolina coast was buffeted by gusts approaching 40 mph, it seemed only appropriate that coastal regulators spent much of Thursday talking about how to turn that wind into energy. But a regulatory roadmap on how to harness that estimated 1,400 megawatts of natural, renewable and domestic energy in the state's coastal and sound waters remains as choppy as the surf just down the road from where the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission was meeting in Brunswick County. "We didn't want to get caught flat-footed if and when a project comes before us," CRC Chairman Bob Emory said. "But today also showed us the challenges we face to get ready."
As chairman of Responsible Citizens for Responsible Energy (RCRE), our stand has never been to ban wind turbines from Carteret County. As our name implies, our main goal is to obtain responsible siting in the pending ordinance. It is our elected and appointed officials responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Carteret County by adopting an ordinance which mandates a safe and responsible setback of wind turbines from neighboring homes and properties.
I would simply like simple answers to simple questions, i.e., what happens when the wind doesn't blow?; what happens when the wind blows too hard?; how many dirty power plants will be decommissioned as a result of embracing wind power?; how many projected new plants now on the books will be scrapped?; will the air over the Smoky Mountains become cleaner and clearer as a result of wind turbines?; will ozone alerts become fewer and farther between?; where are we going to put 300,000 wind turbines to meet the proposed goal of generating 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2025?
Victory may be a long shot, but Earl Hendrix is geared up for the fight. For more than eight months, Hendrix, a 76-year-old Hoke County farmer, has been protesting Progress Energy's 230-kilovolt power line expected to run through 21 miles of private land in the county. The route, which begins in Richmond County and travels through Scotland and Hoke to end in Cumberland County, will affect 77 property owners in Hoke County and 29 in Cumberland County. To Progress Energy, the line is a much-needed solution to the state's growing energy needs fueled by a rapidly increasing population and an upswing in electricity usage. But to Hendrix and other landowners in the county, it's a threat to Hoke's financial outlook and future.
Doug Huggett, major permits coordinator for the state Division of Coastal Management, said the state has rules and regulations that limit what structures can be built in open water. Huggett said wind farms offshore currently are not allowed, so policymakers would have to change the rules if they wanted to accommodate offshore wind turbines. The turbines aren't without controversy. Some raise concern about the noise they generate, while others worry the spinning blades pose hazards to birds. During the recent legislative session, lawmakers directed a study of the permitting of commercial-scale wind farms to ensure they're built in an orderly manner that doesn't harm the environment.
Local opposition is knocking the wind out of efforts to promote renewable energy, but whether coastal ordinances that halt or tightly regulate electricity-generating windmills have them down for the count remains to be seen. The latest setback came in March, when Carteret County imposed a nine-month moratorium. In January, Currituck County started restricting where they can be built. "We're faced with something we know little about," says Doug Harris, chairman of the Carteret County commissioners. "We're looking at something that, from sea level to the tip of the blade, could be 470 to 490 feet tall.
Insurance issues are an area of major concern. In 2007 our state insurance commissioners granted a 25% increase in rates in coastal areas covering "wind and hail coverage." This coverage is no longer included as a part of our homeowner's insurance coverage or premium. This clearly states coastal North Carolina is a "hazardous wind area" that has evidently cost insurance companies more money for repairs and clean up than they liked at prior rates, thereby reducing profits. If "wind" is a problem for insurance companies, like a nor'easter, what will it be with "unregulated" industrial wind turbine farms? This would be an accident waiting to happen and we're the ones that will "again pay the ultimate price."
A year ago, the fight over wind power in North Carolina was centered on the high-country ridges of Ashe County. A rematch this year looks to be taking place on the opposite end of the state, in coastal Carteret County. The mountains-and-coast connection is no accident. Those two regions, 300 or more miles apart, harbor the state's highest wind energy potential -- and some of the best scenery. One of the chief arguments of wind power critics is that the three-bladed electricity-generating turbines so disrupt the view that they drive away tourists and lower property values.
Though most support the need for cleaner energy, neighbors in Bettie, a rural community about seven miles northeast of Beaufort, objected to the project. They contend that the towering wind turbines would be noisy and unattractive, and would spoil the enjoyment of their property. The turbines, including the blades, could stand up to 464 feet high -- more than twice the height of the Cape Lookout lighthouse, the familiar sentinel on the Outer Banks, and taller even than the 30-story Wachovia Capitol Center in downtown Raleigh. "You're going to be able to see it from Beaufort and Morehead City," said Brady Golden, who lives across from the property. "Highway 70 is a scenic highway. There are a lot of questions the people of Bettie have."
A year after a bitter congressional fight over offshore drilling for oil and gas, the Bush administration wants to tap North Carolina's winds, waves and currents as a source for alternative energy. The plans could mean that within a few years, towering wind turbines could spin off North Carolina's Outer Banks to harness the gusts that have tossed ships there for centuries. U.S. Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne said Monday that the 1.8 billion acres of the federal Outer Continental Shelf could become "a new frontier" for the nation's energy resources.
Kill Devil Hills resident Manny Medeiros questioned many of the claims, asserting it would take a swath from New York to the Outer Banks to provide the power that a nuclear plant could give. He said he felt the turbines were eyesores and produce only a fraction of the power of conventional energy sources. "It's like comparing lightning to a lightning bug," he said.
Aug. 1--RALEIGH -- North Carolina is on the verge of becoming the first state in the Southeast to require that a significant portion of its electricity come from sources of renewable energy. But the same bill that will mandate more solar and wind energy also contains a provision that environmentalists say will promote the construction of coal and nuclear-power plants. And critics say that the bill could hurt electricity consumers and have other environmentally detrimental effects.
The N.C. Utilities Commission dismissed Calhoun's application Friday, saying he provided insufficient information, despite being granted a 120-day extension. The commission denied the application nine days after Calhoun submitted a letter explaining that no financial institution was willing to invest in his project until the commission approved it. The project was also opposed by the Public Staff, the state's consumer agency in utility matters. The Public Staff concluded that wind turbines are barred in the mountains under the state's Mountain Ridge Protection Act of 1983. The law prohibits the construction of buildings or structures more than 40 feet tall on mountain ridges, but it exempts windmills. Wind power advocates say the windmill exemption allows wind turbines, but the interpretation is unclear. The Public Staff relied on a 2002 legal opinion from the state Attorney General, who concluded that the 1983 law bars commercial-scale wind-power operations.
The N.C. utilities commission dismissed yesterday an application for a commercial wind farm in the Ashe County community of Creston. Last July's application by Northwest Wind Developers to put up 25 to 28 wind turbines created uproar in the mountains, with some people complaining that 300-foot tall turbines would ruin tourism, views and real-estate values. But there were many supporters, too, people who said that the nation needs renewable energy and that wind power is a good source. It would have been the state's first commercial wind farm. For all the hoopla, though, Northwest Wind Developers never really did say just how tall the turbines would be or exactly where they would be, or provide other details the utilities commission had requested at a February hearing in Raleigh. The failure to provide a complete application is the reason for dismissing the case, according to an order issued yesterday by the utilities commission. Northwest could file a new application later, the order said.
A small scale green revolution is under way in Camden County as interest grows in windmill power. That interest has energized County Planning Director Dan Porter, who is faced with drawing up policies on wind power, after the county received its first applications for windmills to generate electricity. "We've had one homeowner in a subdivision that got interested and wanted to know if he could put up a 65-foot wind meter to determine whether it was suitable for a windmill," Porter said Monday. "We don't currently have any regulations on windmills," he said.
State legislators added new environmental protections yesterday to a major energy bill, but they left intact a provision that would make it easier for power companies to build coal and nuclear power plants. The bill would require power companies to begin energy-conservation programs and increase their use of renewable-energy resources. Renewable energy includes solar power, wind power and power generated from the burning of animal waste.