Wind Projects are on the ropes, but not out
By CATHERINE KOZAK
Coastal Review Online
wind power projects in Beaufort and Pasquotank counties are still in
the works, despite considerable challenges that have raised doubts
about their future.
Progress on a third wind project in
Eastern North Carolina that has not been approved yet by the state has
also stalled, and there is a new proposal to build an innovative
bird-friendly wind power demonstration project in Dare County.
utility-scale wind farm planned near Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife
Refuge, known as the Pantego Wind Project, has raised strong objections
from military officials over conflicts with flight paths and radar use
in training airspace.
Some environmental groups said that the
spinning blades of the 49 wind turbines, which would stand nearly 500
feet in the air, also threatened thousands of tundra swan and snow
geese that winter at the refuge. Mosquito-loving bats and
federally-protected bald eagles would also be threatened.
the Chicago-based wind energy company Invenergy isn’t ready to throw in
the towel on the $160 million project. In a recent statement, the
company said that the project site is undergoing “a thorough
“Invenergy is committed to developing
projects compatible with existing local military activity,” the
statement said. “We therefore continue to communicate with public
officials and military representatives to ensure we help maintain the
stability of bases located in eastern North Carolina.”
mitigation oversight team, formed in collaboration with the Department
of Defense, will explore alternatives to the original design with
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and other stakeholders, according to the
Documents in the Pantego Wind application approved by
the state Utilities Commission on March 8, 2012 included a copy of a
July letter to Gov. Beverly Perdue from the base commander Col. Jeanne
M. Leavitt that said the wind turbines would create hazards for the
low-flying F-15E air crews that train at the Dare County Bombing Range
near East Lake.
But Leavitt did not offer any encouragement for the company.
believe wind farm development in any part of eastern North Carolina,”
she wrote, “has the potential to harm the training missions of Seymour
Johnson Air Force Base and potentially other Defense Department users
of airspace near planned projects.”
A second struggling wind
project proposal in the region, planned on 20,000 acres near Elizabeth
City, has gotten a second wind, so to speak, with the federal
government’s reauthorization last month of the wind energy tax credit.
But forward movement remains stymied by the difficulty finding an
entity to purchase power.
“The extension of the tax credits was
good news for us,” said Paul Copleman, spokesperson for Iberdrola
Renewables, a global wind energy company in Portland, Ore. “Whether it
will directly impact (this project), it’ll take more than extension of
the production tax credits.”
The Desert Wind Power Project,
named for the region’s flat terrain, would have 150 wind turbines that
provide 300 megawatts of power, enough electricity for 55,000 to 70,000
houses. The site of the $600 million project, approved by the state in
May 2011, straddles Perquimans and Pasquotank counties.
to Iberdrola, construction would create more than 400 jobs, payments to
local landowners would be up to $1 million a year for the project life,
tax revenue would be about $750,000 annually, and the facility would
hire 15-20 full-time workers.
“We are actively pursuing
opportunities to secure a long-term power purchase agreement for this
project,” Copleman said. “We would consider it is a project that we are
North Carolina provides 35 percent tax
credit for renewable energy facilities, and the federal government
provides 30 percent investment tax credit. In 2007, the N.C. General
Assembly approved a law requiring that 12.5 percent of the energy
produced in the state be generated from renewable energy resources by
2025. Studies have shown that Eastern North Carolina has some of the
best wind energy potential not only in the state, but on the entire
Another proposed Invenergy project, called Hales
Lake Wind Farm, is also being hindered by military concerns even before
its application has reached the Utilities Commission.
in Currituck and Camden counties, Hales Lake would include 60 to 80
wind turbines and produce up to 180 megawatts of power. The $250
million project would create more than 100 jobs during construction and
would generate enough power for more than 25,000 homes, according to
But the Navy has expressed concern that the
turbines would affect its radar system in Chesapeake, Va., and the
Coast Guard has issues with the impact of the turbines on the
operations at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City.
to a recent statement from Invenergy, the turbines are undergoing
review by the Federal Aviation Administration to determine potential
obstruction of air navigation and radar and communication facilities.
FAA review -- and associated consultation with the Department of
Defense and the Department of Homeland Security -- of course will take
time to complete,” the statement said. “Accordingly, Invenergy is
coordinating the timing of further project development pending ongoing
discussions in this regard with Defense and Homeland Security
While the developers grapple with ways to salvage
the projects, a new bird-friendly wind power and solar energy
demonstration project has been proposed in Dare County at Dominion
Power’s existing facility in Kitty Hawk.
If it meets with town
approval, the three-year research project would be one of the first to
study the effects of coastal salt air and intense weather conditions on
renewable energy production, said Sara Cosby, alternative energy
solutions project manager for Dominion Power.
The Outer Banks’ seasonal spikes in energy use as well as its strong
and steady winds also add to the value of the research.
project would include four relatively short 17-kilowatt wind turbines
-- 70 foot maximum height -- a 5-kilowatt solar panel array and a
battery storage system.
It would operate as its own private micro-grid, essentially creating
alternative power for the facility’s own use, Cosby said.
of the turbines will be an innovative design that is smaller and has a
vertical axis, spinning “almost like a cake hand mixer,” she said.
“Because of the way they are shaped, birds view them almost as a solid
object, so they are less likely to be associated with bird or bat
Since it is a short-term, experimental project --
although the equipment will remain for its lifespan -- Cosby said it
was not worth applying to the state to also discharge power into the
“It will always be able to offset the energy at the
facility,” she said. “So that facility will be pulling less energy from
the grid than it would otherwise.”
Cosby said the concept of
microgrids, where mini-communities like college campuses and military
bases generate their own power, is expected to expand.
microgrids will be used in the future is as miniature self-contained
utility grids,” she said. “They provide resiliency and backup in
extended outages and day-to-day use of the resource as well as in peak
The town voted this week to amend its zoning law to
allow the multiple turbines. The project still must be approved by the
planning board and the town board.
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read other
stories about the N.C. coast at www.nccoast.org.)