Library filed under Impact on Landscape from North Carolina

Huge industrial windmills on ridge tops a bad idea

In 1983, Sugar Top Condos were built on the top of Sugar Mountain in Avery County. Sugar Top Condos rise 131 feet above the ridgeline and can be seen for several miles. These towering condos were so devastating to the scenic splendor of the mountains that the General Assembly wisely enacted strict ridge top laws to stop these monstrosities from appearing throughout our mountains. While the statewide law was too late for Sugar Mountain, the law stopped similar projects of shocking heights and destruction of the mountains. Sugar Top Condos is a permanent reminder that once a structure is built on our mountain tops, we cannot unbuild it.
27 Aug 2009

Clean energy future may be blowing in the wind

Will wind-generated power save the environment or sacrifice it? The answer depends on who you ask ..."Your senators are very brave in what they're doing," said Lisa Linowes of New Hampshire-based Wind Action. "The legislature already concluded when it adopted the Ridge ordinance that your mountains have cultural significance to the state. When asked now to consider whether that value is worth more - or less - than wind generated electrons on the grid, your mountain senators are doing what most politicians in the U.S. have not done. They're putting a cold eye to the options and deciding wind is not worth the sacrifice, at least for now."
16 Aug 2009

Looser windmill rules defeated

Rows of wind turbines are unlikely to be spinning atop mountain ridges anytime soon. A Senate committee on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would have paved the way for large-scale wind energy production in the mountains. Large wind turbines are banned under the state's interpretation of a law restricting ridge development. The Agriculture Committee advanced a proposal that would keep it that way, changing the ridge law to cement the ban.
6 Aug 2009

Wind farms: Better places than atop our mountains

If the nature of this debate sends one clear message, it's that wind power legislation needs to be thoroughly studied, not rushed through. The locus of the debate isn't over wind power itself, but of size, scale and most of all - location. Sen. Steve Goss of Watauga County wants farms permitted on ridge top locations in his area; Sens. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, John Snow, D-Murphy, and Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, point to the fact that such large structures would run afoul of the mountain ridge law.
22 Jul 2009

Windy debate on state gems

The debate has its roots in a condominium project that popped up on a mountain ridge in the 1980s. There were no mountain area zoning laws to prevent it, and when the Sugar Top project emerged to stick out like a sore thumb, the General Assembly quickly acted. It adopted the Ridge Law, intended to stop the erection of excessively tall structures atop mountain ridges in altitudes of 3,000 feet or greater.
19 Jul 2009

Lawmakers aim to protect scenery with windmill limits

A proposed change to North Carolina's ridge protection law unveiled Tuesday would prevent large-scale wind energy production in the mountains. At the urging of some mountain senators, the state Senate Finance Committee added the restrictions to a bill moving through the General Assembly that will shape where windmills are allowed to be built statewide.
15 Jul 2009

Lawmakers approve wind power ban

Senate lawmakers this afternoon brought the state a step closer to a total ban on commercial wind development on North Caorlina's mountain tops with an overwhelming vote in the Senate Finance Committee of the General Assembly. Panel members agreed to restrict wind power development to residential uses on towers limited to 100 feet tall. That restriction prohibits commercial wind farms, which link multiple turbines that can exceed 300 feet.
14 Jul 2009

The Naturalist's Corner: The dark side

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?
13 Aug 2008

Wind rules focal point

With size and health impacts of potential wind turbines in the county, as well as proposed setbacks, the top concerns Wednesday during a special meeting of the County Planning Commission, the wind turbine portion of the county's proposed tall structures ordinance is proving to take priority over communication towers. ...The wind turbine debate, as well as the ensuing moratorium and proposed ordinance, was sparked by a wind farm of 4.5 megawatts for 33 acres on Golden Farm Road in the Down East community of Bettie, which would consist of three turbines at more than 300 feet tall. During the public comment portion of the meeting, the planning commission heard from people who have attended nearly every county meeting regarding wind turbines and the proposed ordinance while only two residents from the western end of the county spoke.
30 May 2008

Energy answer blowing in the wind?

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has thrown out the idea of allowing commercial wind turbines in the county-but it's mulling the idea of smaller wind turbines for individual homeowners. ...the devices are behemoths that are up to 550' tall, dwarfing everything around them. "As I understand it, where they might be adequate, there would be unacceptable environmental consequences to the surrounding area," says Commissioner Jon Cannon. Fellow Commissioner Marcia Joseph echoed Cannon's feelings on commercial wind turbine creation. "My main concern is lining the ridgeline with commercial-sized wind turbines," says UVA Environmental Sciences Professor Rick Webb. "I'm concerned about industrial scale development intruding on what remains of wilderness areas we have left."
27 May 2008

County Passes Wind Energy Ordinance

Ashe County Commissioners voted unanimously this week to adopt a new ordinance regulating the size and placement of wind power systems in unincorporated areas of the county....A 135-foot height limit was placed on small systems while large systems can reach as high as 199 feet - a number the commission said was based on Federal Aviation Administration regulations requiring lighting to warn aircraft of air space hazards.
19 Jul 2007

Banning windmills

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.
24 Jun 2007

Ashe County proposal raises tough issues

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.
14 Feb 2007

Movement toward zoning runs through mountains

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.
13 Feb 2007
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