CAMDEN COUNTY, N.C. – Ted Vogel, alternative energy officer for Blackwater, looked up toward the state’s most powerful wind turbine.
Atop a 120-foot-tall tower near the building where the security company builds Grizzly armored personnel carriers, the turbine’s three blades spun into a slow rotation, pushed by a stiff north wind.
“There you go,” Vogel said.
It was a minor demonstration of the 50-kilowatt wind turbine, but over the next year it is expected to produce about 110,000 kilowatt hours – enough to power 10 homes – and save Blackwater around $10,000, Vogel said.
If this turbine, erected last month at a cost of $180,000, contributes enough to the electricity needs of the 70,000-square-foot Grizzly plant, then Blackwater could put up more turbines and add credence to the forecast that North Carolina coastal counties can effectively use wind power.
“We’re in a wait-and-see mode on future installations,” Vogel said.
The rest of the state is looking at the Blackwater turbine, said Brent Summerville, outreach and training programs manager for the North Carolina Small Wind Initiative at Appalachian State University.
“Everything that is installed is going to get scrutiny,” Summerville said. “Projects like this will help.”
The North Carolina coastline has a strong potential for wind power but has been slow in developing the technology, Summerville said.
Winds off Cape Hatteras average 17 mph at 120 feet off the ground and are rated as some of the most potentially productive in the state, according to a wind map online at the U.S. Department of Energy.
The state is windy enough to sustain a total turbine capacity of about 12,000 megawatts. Most of that capacity would have to come from turbines built off the coast or in the sounds, Summerville said. Currently, the handful of turbines in use have a total rating of less than 1 megawatt, he said.
Driven by applications and potential for the technology, Currituck and Camden counties have recently passed wind turbine ordinances. In Dare County, a 70-foot-tall windmill has been installed at the Coquina Beach bathhouse and another has been permitted for the Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills. Appalachian State has erected six turbines, the largest with a 20-kilowatt capacity, on Beech Mountain, Summerville said.
Interest in wind power surged after North Carolina passed a law last year that will require utilities to buy 10 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2018. With the intent of creating a market for alternative power production, the state and federal governments are offering tax credits.
Wind energy costs about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour and could provide 20 percent of the nation’s energy needs, according to the Department of Energy.
4 February 2008
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