A small scale green revolution is under way in Camden County as interest grows in windmill power.
That interest has energized County Planning Director Dan Porter, who is faced with drawing up policies on wind power, after the county received its first applications for windmills to generate electricity.
?We?ve had one homeowner in a subdivision that got interested and wanted to know if he could put up a 65-foot wind meter to determine whether it was suitable for a windmill,? Porter said Monday.
?We don?t currently have any regulations on windmills,? he said.
Dave Krandracki, the president in waiting, of the property owners? association of the Bell Farms subdivision at Bellcross was interested in exploring a windmill in the subdivision to help homeowners save money on electric bills and to provide a potential backup if power went down during storms, according to the planning department. Porter said he had also been contacted by a farmer who was interested in building a windmill on his land.
?He also asked if we had any regulations, so I got a little bit more interested,? Porter said.
Additionally, in the last few weeks, representatives of the giant private security company Blackwater USA, which is headquartered in Camden, contacted the county saying the company is interested in building windmills on the base, Porter said.
Blackwater has made only one application for a windmill, according to Porter, but the company wants to ?test the water? over the green energy source.
?We are now researching what kind of regulations exist for windmills,? Porter said.
Most of the interest in windmills in North Carolina has been in the mountain areas, according to Porter, although that may be changing.
?There are wind maps that show we have an average of a steady 12 mph wind, which is minimally adequate to power windmills that will produce electricity,? Porter said.
But Porter said there are a number of factors to be considered before windmills could be linked up to the electric grid.
He said an official from Albemarle Electric Membership Corporation discussed windmill power at the last planning board meeting.
?There are environmental issues from the standpoint of saving energy, and this is something green,? Porter said, ?but he?s pointed out in some locations there are environmentalists on the other side saying they (windmills) are not necessarily the most aesthetic looking things.?
Porter added that there are also environmental issues involving migratory birds and noise.
Porter said if homeowners using windmills are expecting to supplement their energy use, they have to hook up to the grid.
?When you start talking about hooking into the electrical grid, there are all sorts of safety considerations that need to be taken into consideration,? Porter said.
Brad Furr, executive vice president and general manager of Albemarle Electric Membership Corp., said under pending state and federal legislation electric companies faced identifying up to 10 percent of their power sources from alternative energy at some point in the future.
But he said wind power projects could push up electric bills.
?If you put up a 50 kilowatt wind turbine that 50 KW that you need in reserve for when there isn?t peak wind. It will push up rates to the consumer.?
However, he said there was likely to be caps on the amount green energy could push up bills under the forthcoming legislation.
By David Macauley
23 July 2007
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