Resource Documents: North Carolina (4 items)
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Author: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has a vested interest in northeast North Carolina as evidenced by the presence of nine National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) encompassing over 360,000 acres. In addition, the Service has a National Fish Hatchery and a Migratory Bird Field Office (MBFO) in the area. Staff members from the Service’s Ecological Services Field Office (ESFO) in Raleigh also routinely work on issues within the region.
The Department of the Interior and the Service support the development of wind and other renewable energy sources in the right places. That being said, the location of the Pantego Wind Energy, LCC project causes us great concern and we want to make the Commission aware of these concerns. Service staff (primarily ESFO and MBFO) have been communicating with representatives of the company for months now and have relayed these concerns to them as well. We are currently providing technical assistance to the company on migratory bird survey protocols, but my understanding is that the study they are conducting this winter is to help determine the best locations for turbines within the selected project area/site and will not be used to assess the suitability/impacts on migratory birds of the project site itself.
During the winter, Pocosin Lakes and Mattamuskeet NWRs become home to hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl. Although the birds concentrate on the refuges, they routinely fly out to surrounding agricultural and other lands to forage. One species of special concern is the tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus). Tundra swans are large birds weighing up to 23 pounds with a wingspan of 5-1/2 feet. The breeding grounds for tundra swans are in Alaska and western Canada. Part of the population migrates south along the Pacific Coast during the winter, but the other part, the Eastern Population of tundra swans, migrates across the continent to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Eastern North Carolina winters approximately 70-80% of this Eastern Population of tundra swans. Thus, this area supports a substantial part of this international migratory bird resource for four to six months annually.
Tundra swan use of the Pantego Wind Energy, LCC project site in the winter is well documented. Most of these birds are probably associated with the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes NWR (approximately 2 miles apart at the closest points) but some are probably associated with Mattamuskeet NWR (approximately 15 miles apart at the closest points). In addition, studies have shown that there is a lot of mixing among tundra swans on the wintering grounds, so it is likely that many different individual birds within the population use the site, rather than the same birds using the site over and over again.
While there are few data on the potential impacts of wind farms on tundra swans, it seems reasonable to be concerned about 1) site avoidance (which means a loss of foraging habitat) and 2) direct mortality from turbine blade strikes (especially at night – tundra swans and other migratory waterfowl wintering at Pocosin Lakes NWR are known to fly between roosting and foraging areas at night). Additional study is needed to better understand these and other possible impacts of the proposed wind farm on tundra swans and other migratory bird resources wintering at Pocosin Lakes and Mattamuskeet NWRs. Due to crop rotations in the project area and other variables, it would likely take years, rather than a single field season as is planned for the company’s current study, to gather the appropriate data. As stated above, the Service continues to provide technical assistance to Pantego Wind Energy, LCC on their proposed study, but thus far we have not received any written survey reports or migratory bird risk assessments from them. As there appears to be no other review process for this proposed project, delaying the decision on the application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity until risk assessment studies are completed would seem prudent.
Based on the information we currently have and our experience with the migratory birds wintering at Pocosin Lakes NWR, we believe that detrimental impacts to tundra swans from the proposed wind farm are likely. Other migratory bird resources, such as bald eagles, might also be affected. Direct mortality from blade strikes, if they occur, might be considered a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We offer all of this information for you to consider as you evaluate Pantego Wind Energy, LLC’s application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.
United States Department of the Interior
FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
205 South Ludington Drive
P.O. Box 329
Columbia, NC 27925-0329
December 6, 2011
TO: Ms. Renne Vance, Chief Clerk, N.C. Utilities Commission
4325 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4325
RE: Docket No. EMP-61, Sub 0
Pantego Wind Energy, LLC – Application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity
Download original document: “Fish and Wildlife Service Comments: Pantego Wind Energy”
Aesthetics, Environment, Noise, North Carolina, Ordinances, Safety, Siting •
Author: Carteret County (N.C.)
[Note: In February 2014 this ordinance was revised to establish a 1-mile setback, a 275-ft height limit, and a 35-dB noise limit at property lines.]
Minimum Wind Turbine Setback from any Property Line, Public or Private r-o-w, and/or
Access Easement —
Small System (up to 25 kW, max. ht. 60 ft.) Attached to a house: None
Small System (up to 25 kW, max. ht. 75 feet) Not attached to a house: 1 foot for each foot of height from any property line and 1 foot for each foot of height from any vacant or occupied dwelling unit on the same property (but If the Planning Director or designee determines there will be no significant impact on abutting properties or those across a stream, lake, or other body of water, no such setback is required from the waterward property line for a turbine placed in a body of water or on a dock or pier)
Large System (more than 25 kW and less than 1,000 kW, max. ht. 199 feet): 1,300 feet
Utility-scale (max. ht. 550 feet): 6 feet for each foot of height
Such minimum setbacks for a wind energy facility shall be measured from its outermost extension (whether blade tip, nacelle/turbine housing, or tower/pole edge) that is nearest the subject property line, public or private r-o-w, and access easement. Wind Turbine Height: The distance measured from the lowest adjacent grade to the highest point of the structure, including any attachments, such as a lightening protection device or a turbine rotor or tip of the turbine blade when it reaches its highest elevation.
The Large System or Utility-scale Wind Energy Facility shall:
A. Be a non-obtrusive color (such as light blue, off-white or light gray) that blends with the sky, as determined by the Planning Director or designee.
B. Not be artificially lighted, except to the extent required by the Federal Aviation Administration or other applicable authority that regulates air safety.
C. Not contain any signs or other advertising (including flags, streamers or decorative items or any identification of the turbine manufacturer, facility owner and operator). This does not include any identification plaques that might be required by the electric utility or governmental agency.
D. Be maintained to minimize noise from the turbine, any engines or motors, and the blades or propellers.
E. Be sited and operated so as to not interfere with television, internet service, telephone (including cellular and digital), microwave, satellite (dish), navigational, or radio reception in neighboring areas. The applicant and/or operator of the facility shall be responsible for the full cost of any remediation necessary to provide equivalent alternate service or correct any problems; including relocation or removal of the facility caused or exacerbated by the operation of such equipment and any and all related transmission lines, transformers, and other components related thereto.
F. Have a leak containment system for oil, hydraulic fluids, and other non-solids that is certified by an expert (such as an engineer, turbine manufacturer, etc.) acceptable to the Planning Director or designee that all such fluids will be captured before they reach the ground. The applicant shall pay the cost of the expert.
The applicant shall provide a shadow flicker and blade glint report for each proposed wind energy facility. The report shall:
A. Evaluate the worst case scenarios of wind constancy, sunshine constancy, and wind directions and speeds.
B. Map and describe the zones where shadow flicker and blade glint will likely be present within the project boundary and a one-mile radius beyond the project boundary.
C. Identify existing residences and the locations of their windows, locations of other structures, wind speeds and directions, and existing vegetation and roadways.
D. Calculate the locations of shadow flicker caused by the proposed project and the expected durations of the flicker at these locations, including outdoor viewsheds.
E. Calculate the total number of hours per year of flicker at all locations, including the outdoor viewshed.
F. Identify problem zones within a one-mile radius where shadow flicker will interfere with existing or future residences and roadways and describe proposed measures to mitigate these problems.
Based upon the findings of the report, the wind energy facility shall be designed so that shadow flicker or blade glint will not fall on or in any roadway or occupied property.
A. Shadow flicker or blade glint that falls on a portion of an occupied property is acceptable only under the following circumstances:
1. The flicker or glint does not exceed 120 seconds per day for 7 consecutive days, with a 20-hour maximum per year and
2. The flicker or glint falls more than 100 feet from an existing residence or business property.
B. Shadow flicker or blade glint that falls on a roadway is acceptable only under the following circumstances:
1. The traffic volumes are less than 500 vehicles per day on the roadway and
2. The flicker or glint shall not fall onto an intersection of public roads.
No Large System or Utility-scale wind energy facility or any generators, equipment, or apparatus shall produce noise above 45 decibels for more than 5 consecutive minutes, as measured at any property line. … If noise levels exceed 80 decibels for more than 24 consecutive hours, as measured at any property line, the applicant and/or owner shall shut down the wind energy facility within 3 (three) business days of being informed to do so by the Planning Director or designee.
Author: Hansen, Lena
This master’s thesis examines whether wind energy variability might be reduced – and thus capacity credit obtained – by balancing the characteristics of three separate sites in North Carolina and Tennessee. It was published in the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, Spring 2005, pp. 341-381.
“As wind is added at the other two sites, portfolio variance decreases, but so does mean portfolio output.” (p. 372)
A “best” portfolio (to provide the least variability) for January was calculated – based on 1 years’ 10-minute wind samples – as (roughly) half the turbines at site A, a fifth at site B, and a fourth at site C. For August, the best distribution was a fifth at site A, a third at site B, and two-fifths at site C. These theoretical portfolios would have a capacity credit of 21% in January and only 7% in August (based on theoretical January outputs of 53%, 58%, and 39% at sites A, B, and C, respectively, and August outputs of 47%, 19%, and 13%, respectively).
If a grid manager wanted the least variability all year, then several turbines at each site would have to be turned off at different times to provide the best balance over geographically dispersed locations, thus lowering the overall capacity factors (and vastly increasing costs, both economic and environmental).
Note the explanation of the difference between traditional capacity credit (how much load is available 95% of the time) and “effective load-carrying capacity” (ELCC), which is now frequently used for variable sources such as wind. The author says it is a very complicated formula, but it appears to maximize, e.g., wind’s capacity credit by also considering the likelihood that other sources would not be able to provide necessary load at any time. That is, as long as the rest of the system is robust, wind is allowed a high ELCC.
But that still indicates that wind provides energy, not reliable capacity. Geographic dispersion provides some capacity credit, but the necessary redundancy only underscores the madness of trying to use wind to replace other sources.
Download original document: “Can wind be a “firm” resource?”
Author: Associated Press
If you have ever had the pleasure of driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, you can appreciate the value of the early morning mist rising from the dark valleys, the setting sun’s rays splashing warm colors over distant pastures.
Some of those beautiful vistas, however, are being lost – spoiled by a building boom of subdivisions along the 470-mile stretch of scenic roadway.
Because the Blue Ridge Parkway is a “linear park,” private land not far from the parkway’s shoulders can be developed – unless local officials move to protect the land.
And one way they are trying to do that is by defining the value of “view-sheds.” But how can a view-shed be quantified?
“It’s taking something that was very qualitative and emotional, and taking it apart and making it scientific,” Susan Kask, an economics professor at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., told The Associated Press. The college is one of three area schools involved in a project to assign a dollar value to the vistas.
So far, researchers have estimated the view-shed value of one part of the parkway at $1.7 billion.
Imagine the value of the views of Nantucket Sound? Of Cape Cod Bay? Of Buzzards Bay? What would visitors and residents alike pay to keep their ocean vistas free of development?
Developers of a massive wind farm on Nantucket Sound argue that property values have not decreased as a result of wind farms. And wind farms will reduce air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels and eventually improve scenic vistas.
But why can’t we do both? Why can’t we keep Nantucket Sound free of industrial development, and reduce air pollution from power plants?
Some argue it is unnecessary to assign an economic value to views. Why place a dollar sign on a treasure we thought was priceless?
In North Carolina, parkway stewards say they need hard facts, not warm feelings, in the effort to protect scenic vistas.
Laura Rotegard, a parkway official, told the AP that the study isn’t intended to stifle development, but spur a conversation about its different costs.
“We want this data to force the political folks to say, ‘Do it better’,” she said. “These values don’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ They say, ‘Recognize that there’s a tradeoff’.”
One clear result from the $120,000 study, funded in part by the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, was that visitors would lose a lot of value if the scenic experience were allowed to deteriorate.
David Harmon, co-author of the recent book, “The Full Value of Parks: From Economics to the Intangible,” told the AP that parks offer a wide variety of noneconomic values, such as recreation, beauty and even spiritual renewal. He is troubled that parkway defenders must make their argument in economic terms.
But Leah Mathews, a University of North Carolina-Asheville economics professor, said that having some value for the views is better than none.
“It would be really nice if we collectively as a culture have discussions about these values, but the crass reality is we often don’t,” she said. “What we’re really trying to do is put something out there.”
(Published: September 23, 2003)