Raleigh entrepreneurs Nelson and Dianna Paul cleared the first hurdle Thursday toward building the state’s largest wind power plant in Bettie, east of Morehead City.
The state Utilities Commission approved the proposed project – on condition that the wind farm is permitted by Carteret County and also cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The county has imposed a moratorium on wind farms as officials there try to establish regulations for the structures in coastal areas. The three turbines proposed by Paul would exceed 400 feet in height with blades fully extended upward, towering more than twice as high as the Cape Lookout lighthouse. Residents have lobbied against the wind turbines as an eyesore and environmental hazard.
The Pauls must still apply for a permit from the FAA for their 4.5 megawatt Golden Wind Farm. The federal agency requires assurance that the turbines will not interfere with the flight path of a nearby airport and that they will not cause radio interference with an air traffic control radar.
The state approval is also conditional on the Pauls conducting a study to determine whether the airspace above the turbines can generate sufficient wind activity to justify the project. The question decided by the Utilities Commission on Thursday was whether there was a public need in the state for the wind farm.
The Pauls’ proposal would provide power for about 900 homes when the wind is blowing, which is about 35 percent of the time.
“Honestly, it blows so much, it’s a nuisance,” Dianna Paul said.
The largest wind project in the state is a 50-kilowatt private turbine operated by military security contractor Blackwater Worldwide at the company’s head- quarters in Currituck County. The Blackwater turbine generates enough electricity to power the equivalent of about eight homes.
The Pauls, both real estate agents in Raleigh, are Carteret County natives who own the 33.3-acre farm where the wind turbines would be built. Nelson Paul once worked as a wetlands scientist for the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.
The Pauls are in discussions to have Progress Energy buy the electricity that Golden Wind would produce. Private generators are not allowed to sell electricity directly to retail customers in North Carolina; they can only sell at wholesale rates to public utilities.
Progress is exploring renewable-energy options. A new state state law requires that utilities derive 12.5 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources or efficiency programs by 2021.
25 April 2008
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