BEAUFORT – Down East resident Hilda E. Davis left the Carteret County administration building Wednesday knowing that towering projects like the power-producing windmills proposed for her community are now getting the attention of the county.
The Board of Commissioners has set a public hearing for 6 p.m. March 3 to receive public comments on the “possibility of imposing a moratorium for any approvals for the construction or erection of towers, electric generating windmills, and similar type of tall structures in Carteret County so the impacts can be studied and any needed regulations can be adopted.”
There are no specific criteria in county ordinances that apply to windmills or other similar structures, and Davis said that leaves the Bettie community east of Beaufort vulnerable to potential noise, height, safety and other concerns from the proposed windmill turbines.
While detailed final plans have not been developed, initial proposals include three windmills as tall as 340 feet with a blade diameter of about 271 feet.
Several residents have publicly voiced their opposition, citing concerns such as stability of the structures during storms or hurricanes, noise from the turbines and the height of the windmills, which would tower over homes and the landscape.
“I’m for the concept (of wind power), but I’m not for it in a residential area,” said Davis, who lives next door to the property being considered for development.
Commissioner Jonathan Robinson said he doesn’t have a problem with developing renewable energy sources, but the county should also look at what impacts may be involved and where windmills, towers and other tall structures should be.
“I welcome the exploration of alternative energy sources, but we need to look at the location and implications of these tall structures,” he said following the Wednesday meeting.
The only action taken during Wednesday’s 10-minute meeting was approval of Robinson’s motion to hold a public hearing.
Davis is pleased the public will have a chance to comment, and she believes a moratorium would give the county time to look closely at the issue.
“There are too many things that we don’t have the answers to,” she said.
Nelson and Dianna Paul of Raleigh have applied for a certificate from the N.C. Utilities Commission that is currently under consideration. Approval would give them the right to provide electricity to the public but not for the construction of the facility itself.
The Pauls see their proposal as an opportunity to meet a growing demand for wind power. A new state law requires that up to 12.5 percent of the power generated by North Carolina utilities come from renewable sources.
“Three percent has to be generated in the State of North Carolina,” Dianna Paul said.
The property in Bettie is a location they believe would bring wind power to the area.
But the proposed date for bringing the project on line is 2010, and they have not gotten to the point of applying for a building permit from the county.
If the county proceeds with drafting regulations for wind turbines and other tall structures, the Pauls can only wait to see how the rules may impact them.
“It will depend on how the rules shape up,” Nelson Paul said.
For Dianna Paul, it’s difficult to know that the requirements they must follow may be changing midway through a process into which she and her husband have put a lot of time and money.
“We’ve played the game with the rules currently in place and now that could change,” she said.
And what adds to the hurt, she said, are the comments suggesting that because they live in Raleigh, what happens to the community doesn’t affect them.
“Carteret County is where Nelson and I have strong family ties,” she said.
7 February 2008
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