Anti clean energy NC legislators try to shut down nearly complete wind farm

This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.

Guest Blog | January 18, 2017 | Energy Policy, Wind
Outer Banks Brewing Station in North Carolina was the first wind-powered brewery in the country.

SACE Renewable Energy Manager Simon Mahan contributed to this blogpost. 

North Carolina’s first wind farm is nearly complete. The 104 turbine project will generate as much electricity as the equivalent of 61,000 homes. Amazon will purchase the power to run its data center in Virginia. Now, with all turbines installed and beginning to produce electricity, anti-renewable energy legislators are trying to shut it down.

The Amazon Wind Farm is the first large-scale wind farm in North Carolina, and is located predominately in farm land. The wind developer, Avagrid, has gone through more than six years of federal, state, and local permitting, review, studies and construction. In an eleventh-hour attempt to kill the project, a small group of anti-wind power North Carolina legislators claim even more red tape is necessary, because they claim a wind farm could interfere with a radar installation in Virginia.

Virginians are unperturbed.

Avangrid worked closely with the Navy to comply with the nearby radar installation, which included moving around the location of some of the turbines, reducing the size of the project, and running models with scientists to test potential impacts. Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson Eric D. Badger, Maj, USAF, has stated that the Amazon Wind Farm “is not expected to create an adverse impact on DoD’s readiness and operations. Recent studies have concluded that the project as currently scoped (104 turbines, compared to 158 in a prior proposal) will not degrade the ROTHR operation.”

In fact, the wind developer worked with the U.S. Navy and DOD to sign an agreement in 2014 that includes an understanding to shut off the turbines if there was a national security threat. Avangrid has received approval from the Department of Defense Clearinghouse – the federal agency that reviews renewable energy project proposals near military installations.

Wind farms and military bases have coexisted in proximity for years. There are currently 49,000 wind turbines in operation in the US, some within 25-30 miles to military bases. There has yet to be an issue reported. As technology improves, many wind farms have adopted practices that reduce impacts, which includes radar upgrades and micro-siting. That doesn’t mean that DOD rubber stamps every project. There have been instances in which DOD objects to a site and wind developers have to move on. Meanwhile, DOD has recognized the importance of renewable energy, and has plans to generate 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

North Carolina Military Affairs Commission Map Atlas: Compatible Use Map March 2016
North Carolina Military Affairs Commission Map Atlas: Compatible Use Map March 2016

So, if the wind farm poses no threat to national security and the U.S. Navy is supportive of the project, why are a few state legislators taking a strong stance against the wind farm? They’re simply opposed to renewable energy. A handful of North Carolina legislators attempted to ban renewable energy projects last year, but that proposal failed miserably. North Carolina already has some of the most rigorous wind farm permitting and review requirements in the south.

Placing burdensome and unnecessary regulations on wind farm development in the state jeopardizes economic benefits for North Carolina. The wind farm is a $400 million capital investment and Pasquotank County should receive $250,000 in property tax revenues this year. By opposing the wind farm, legislators are signaling to future companies willing to invest in North Carolina that the state is a hostile environmental for renewable energy development. It’s clear that these anti-wind energy legislators need to step to the side and let the homegrown, clean wind energy production begin.

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