Articles from North Carolina
RALEIGH - Are you willing to pay higher electricity rates to support renewable energy? If so, you're one of only about 10,000 people in North Carolina who is. That's because the well-publicized N.C. Green Power program has given state residents an ample opportunity to buy power derived from sources such as solar, wind and hog waste. Yet only 10,000 have signed up, or about .01 percent of the population. As a referendum on renewable energy, N.C. Green Power is a pretty clear indication North Carolinians aren't interested. Yet legislators are gearing up to force people to buy energy from renewable sources ($10 per month worth, phased in to as much as $30 per month later). So in what has become business-as-usual, the General Assembly is set to introduce yet another hidden tax that, if passed, will mandate that 8-plus million of us buy what we have elected not to buy -- expensive energy with negligible environmental benefits.
North Carolina could be the first state in the Southeast to require its power companies to generate a substantial amount of electricity from renewable sources, under a measure overwhelmingly endorsed by the Senate. The legislation - which has been pushed for years by environmental groups - would require that solar energy, animal waste and other renewable sources make up at least 12.5 percent of Progress Energy's and Duke Energy's energy mix by 2021. The utilities can also meet the requirement with conservation programs that encourage customers to reduce energy use. Currently, less than 2 percent of the state's electricity comes from renewable sources; almost all comes from coal-burning power plants and nuclear energy.
After a year of debate and research, the Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners voted last week to enact a ban on windmills and wind turbines in the resort town. The board voted unanimously on the ban after debating the issue a year ago and passing it along to the planning board for more study. Town manager Scott Hildebran said the board was concerned about aesthetics and the close proximity of the Blue Ridge parkway, which would have authority to make formal recommendations on any project within the national park's viewshed.
Development should certainly be regulated on mountain slopes and ridges, as governments in Northwest North Carolina have finally started to do in the last few years....Few people want huge, sprawling farms of towering windmills. Regulations, including countywide zoning, are needed to make sure that doesn't happen. Neighboring Ashe County faces serious challenges in dealing with a proposed industrial-scale windmill farm in large part because it lacks a comprehensive land-use plan. Ashe did approve an ordinance a few months ago that would govern wind-energy systems such as windmill farms, but that may have been too late.
The Blowing Rock Town Council has become the first local government in Northwest North Carolina to ban windmills. The decision by the town, whose economy depends on tourism, comes less than a year after Watauga County became the first county in the state to adopt an ordinance to regulate wind-energy systems. "I think appearance is extremely important in a small town like Blowing Rock," said Town Councilwoman Rita Wiseman. She joined Tuesday's unanimous vote to prohibit wind-energy systems, including residential-scale windmills.
One of the nation's largest electricity utilities announced its first foray into wind generation Tuesday with the acquisition of Austin-based Tierra Energy. Duke Energy Corp. said it has purchased more than 1,000 megawatts of wind projects being developed by Tierra, a small wind-energy outfit that employs six people in Austin. Duke acquired the company from Energy Investors Funds, which will retain two small natural-gas plants Tierra had owned. Tierra has no wind generation projects completed.
RALEIGH - A nonprofit environmental advocacy group, which staunchly believes global warming must be reduced through reductions in human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, controls another nonprofit organization that advises a climate action panel started by the N.C. Division of Air Quality. The DAQ-created group, in turn, makes recommendations on carbon-dioxide reductions to the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change. The advisory organization, the Center for Climate Strategies, is Pennsylvania-based and helped establish the study commission through a proposal to DAQ. But there is question whether the study panel, called the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group (CAPAG), is authorized under N.C. law.
The Ashe County Board of Commissioners will meet in emergency session at 3 p.m. today at the Ashe County Courthouse to talk with an attorney about the county's new ordinance regulating windmills. There is no actual emergency, but the meeting was set up on short notice because of scheduling conflicts, said County Manager Dan McMillan. Commissioners will meet with Tony Triplett, Wilkes County's attorney.
States with renewable portfolio standards have generated growth in the renewable energy sector, but many of the Appalachian states don't have one. Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York all have some fairly progressive goals, but West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee don't have a state RPS and wind projects often ignite battles.
Regarding your article “Ashe board approves ordinance … ” (Feb. 20), the Ashe County commissioners should be commended for leading our state in developing a local ordinance that protects their mountain resources and all their citizens. While recognizing the need for the development of alternative energy sources, Ashe County has made its position clear that development of 400-foot-high wind turbines on mountain ridges is not acceptable.
The Ashe County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 yesterday to adopt an ordinance regulating wind-energy systems, but it will take a more detailed look at its provisions. "We can immediately and will immediately get our legal advice about tweaking the ordinance," said Richard Blackburn, the chairman of the commissioners. The county has "a long list of things we need to research and take a look at" in the ordinance, he said. The commissioners' vote was the second reading on the ordinance, which means that it is in effect.
OLIVER SPRINGS, TENN. - When Martha Walls gives tours of her town’s small museum, she points to framed photographs of coal-blackened faces next to those of 400-foot wind turbines that stand on a reclaimed strip mine just outside town. The Southeast’s first commercial wind farm was built here on Windrock Mountain on the site of an old coal mine after people in North Carolina fought a proposal to place it within view of Watauga County. In Oliver Springs, the new environmentally-friendly energy came without a fuss. “I don’t hear anybody complain about our windmills, and I don’t know why anybody would,” Walls said. But in North Carolina, where a proposal to build a wind farm in Ashe County has run up against opposition from longtime residents and newcomers, the road to renewable energy is not so certain.
Wind power would seem to be a necessary component of any strategy by North Carolina to increase the amount of energy produced here from alternative sources. Put simply, there’s plenty of wind in these parts. The downside is that sections of the state where wind currents are strongest and most consistent also happen to be ones that are heavily dependent on tourism and where there is an understandable priority on protecting natural views. That holds for the coast, and it holds for the mountains. The issue of whether and how to take advantage of mountain winds now is before the state Utilities Commission. The commission yesterday held a hearing focused on a proposed Ashe County “wind farm” — 25 or so giant turbines that would be built near Creston in the state’s far northwest. It is easy to see why the project has stirred local opposition in an area where vacation-home development is an economic mainstay.
Ashe County residents will have to wait at least another seven months before they learn the fate of a developer’s controversial request to build large wind turbines on or near Big Springs Mountain. At the conclusion of a 3 1/2 -hour hearing yesterday to consider the proposal, the N.C. Utilities Commission took one action: It scheduled another hearing for Aug. 8.
Change comes slowly to the mountains, whether it’s the thousands of years it took rivers to carve the breathtaking valleys and gorges or the decades it’s taking to change the way people think about their stewardship of the land. A recent series of events, unrelated on the surface, tells us that change is coming even if it happens at a glacial pace. In Ashe County last month, commissioners asked planners to revisit the county’s floodplain ordinances and recommend changes. That move came amid a lively and continuing debate over wind farms. The heart of the matter is whether windmills would violate the letter and the spirit of the N.C. Ridge Law, which restricts development along ridgelines.
In short, an ugly fight is looming. On one level, it’s a fight between progressives who stress conservation of scenic views against progressives who stress alternative sources of energy. And it’s a fight that could have been avoided. Ashe County commissioners should finally get the message that they need a comprehensive land-use plan, one designed to meet the challenges posed by plans for windmill farms and many other kinds of development. There’s considerable citizen resistance to such a plan. But commissioners need to lead on this issue and take control of their county’s future.
Ben Massey Jr. spends his weekends tending grapes and Christmas trees amid the serenity of the Appalachian Mountains. To protect those pristine peaks, the Raleigh physical therapist is joining the fight to prevent the harvest of one of the most abundant energy resources: wind. Less than a half-hour from Massey’s Grape & Needle farm, a former Ashe County commissioner is proposing to put up 25 to 28 wind turbines that would light up about 15,000 homes. The turbines would rise about 250 feet above the ridge tops, each one taller than the 17-story SunTrust Bank tower in downtown Durham. “The main problem is how unsightly it’s going to be for our beautiful mountains,” Massey said. “Who in the world would want to build a home underneath those towers that constantly go ‘whoop, whoop, whoop?’ ” As state officials consider alternatives to nuclear power and coal-fired plants, the wind farm proposed in Ashe County underscores the challenges renewable energy must overcome.
It has been standing room only at the meetings regarding the proposed wind turbine facility that could be built on Big Springs Mountain in Creston. The Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved the first reading of the Ashe County Ordinance to Regulate Wind Energy Systems Monday at their regularly scheduled meeting. The Ordinance will be presented again at the Feb. 19th meeting of the commissioners and can be officially adopted at that time, but because Commissioner Marty Gambill was not at Monday’s meeting it could not be adopted then.
Regarding Rick Martinez's Feb. 3 column about ridgetop windmills, my opposition to the proposed facility in Ashe County is not about "pretty power" -- it is about preserving our Blue Ridge landscape. What is proposed in Ashe County are 28 turbines standing 365 high, each approximately three times the height of the 10-story Sugartop condominium building in Avery County. It was this building that united landowners, environmentalists and politicians to press for passage of North Carolina's Mountain Ridge Protection Act of 1983.
Ashe commissioners approve an ordinance for wind energy Ashe County commissioners approved an ordinance yesterday to govern wind-energy systems, a response to a proposed commercial wind farm of 25 to 28 windmills. There was no discussion by commissioners before the 4-0 vote, which followed a 90-minute public hearing. During the public hearing, 13 people spoke in opposition to the wind farm, 11 spoke in favor of it, and three people didn't take a position but offered suggestions for the proposed ordinance. Before the hearing began, Ashe Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Blackburn explained to the audience that the county's lack of a comprehensive land-use plan meant that commissioners could not ban windmills. "The only thing that can happen is we can regulate," he said. "We cannot prohibit. That's a very significant thing to remember." There's controversy about whether the state's Ridge Law prohibits wind turbines of an industrial scale.