Library filed under General from North Carolina
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.
Environmentalist groups have pushed for years for a state policy that requires utilities to develop renewable energy and efficiency programs. But many of those groups are fighting a bill in the General Assembly that includes their long-sought goal.
An Ashe County man trying to build a commercial wind farm in Creston said yesterday that he doesn't have the money to continue to do studies requested by the N.C. Utilities Commission. Richard Calhoun of Northwest Wind Developers is asking for conditional permission to move forward with the project, but he said that his application could be dismissed before an Aug. 8 hearing. The public staff of the utilities commission is recommending that the project be denied because Calhoun hasn't submitted the requested information and because it believes that wind turbines violate the state's Ridge Law, which prohibits tall buildings or structures on protected ridges.
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.
Provisions make it easier to finance new power plants. Legislation to force N.C. power companies to be greener would also make it easier for them to build power plants that would pollute, environmentalists and some lawmakers say. The complex proposal requires Duke Energy Corp. and other power companies to produce 12.5 percent of electricity from energy efficiency programs and renewable sources, such as the wind, the sun and animal waste. Environmentalists have fought for clean energy requirements for years, increasingly popular around the country. But some say this bill is little comfort because it has several corporate-sponsored provisions, including ones that make it easier to finance new power plants and pass those costs on to consumers.
Legislation designed to help the state reduce energy use and promote the use of renewable power sources sailed through the state Senate this month. But the bill has stalled in the House amid growing concern that it would have the opposite effect: encouraging the construction of more power plants.
The Ashe County Board of Commissioners adopted a wind-energy ordinance yesterday that limits wind-turbine heights to 199 feet as measured to the tip of the turbine's blade. The new rules replace those that commissioners adopted in February as they hurried to get county-wide regulations in place before the first N.C. Utilities Commission hearing on a proposed commercial wind farm of 25 to 28 turbines in Creston. The utilities commission's hearings are scheduled in August, and the commissioners have been reviewing the ordinance. The regulations are effective immediately because the commissioners voted unanimously on the matter. Their 5-0 vote followed a short public hearing.
Ashe County commissioners voted unanimously today to adopt a new county wind-energy ordinance. The new version takes the place of one adopted in February. It limits the total height of wind turbines to 199 feet. That means that the turbines would not require aircraft warning lights. The new stipulation pleases residents, including those who objected because the turbines would be illuminated at night. The revised ordinance takes effect immediately.
For years, environmental advocates have pushed for North Carolina to require its power companies to use a set amount of renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, solar energy or animal waste. This year, that might happen - but the bill that would do it also includes provisions that some advocates say would hurt the environment by encouraging more coal and nuclear power plants. The bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the N.C. Senate, is now being studied by the N.C. House of Representatives. It would require Duke Energy and Progress Energy to generate a significant amount of their electricity through renewable sources. The bill is expected to face a tougher fight in the House than it did in the Senate. The House energy committee is scheduled to hold a three-hour public comment period on the bill today in Raleigh at 3 p.m.
The mountain counties of Northwest North Carolina would probably generate a large part of the state's renewable energy. But residents in Ashe and Wilkes counties have already shown this year that reaching the proposed green-energy goals won't come easily. A proposal to build a wind farm on a ridge in Ashe County set off a storm of protest this year, with opponents saying that the giant turbines would ruin sweeping mountain vistas, killing tourism and housing markets.
Six of the nation's 10 largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions are coal-fired power plants in the South, but year after year Southern lawmakers balk at pushing utilities toward cleaner renewable energy. Last month, Republican senators from the South provided about half the votes that defeated federal legislation to require power companies to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Nationally, almost half the states have adopted their own renewable mandates, but only one, Texas, is in the South. Southern lawmakers -- responding to heavy lobbying from local utilities -- argue their region isn't conducive to solar or wind power like the sun-baked Southwest or the open plains of the West.
RALEIGH - It's hard to run a business when nobody wants to buy what you're selling. Some businesses have found a way around this obstacle: Get the government on your side. This is the reality in the renewable energy industry, where excessively high prices keep the industry from being competitive. North Carolina has a voluntary program, called NC GreenPower, which allows the public to voluntarily support renewable energy. The participation rate has been dismal. Renewable energy sold through the program accounts for only about .01 percent of all electricity sold in the state. The state Senate passed Senate Bill 3 since North Carolinians won't voluntarily support renewable energy. Apparently, the state Senate thinks people must be forced to support renewable energy against their will.
The Mountain Ridge Protection Act, along with these proposed ordinances- should make sure that the whole county is covered, McMillan said. One change would lessen the setback for utility scale turbines to 1,000 feet. Under the proposal, no portion of a large wind energy system could be located or maintained on a protected mountain ridge if the top of the turbine exceeds the vegetative canopy by more than 35 feet.
Though more consistent than such sources as wind energy and solar power, the Haw River hydroelectric project would produce full power only about 50 percent of the time, depending on the amount of water available.
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.