In regard to two issues reported in last Friday’s article about the Carteret County Planning Board’s public meeting in Smyrna, first, regarding the increasing size of utility-scale wind turbines:
It took many of us awhile to get our minds around the immense size of the 1.5-megawatt (MW) utility-scale wind turbines when we first learned about the proposed wind energy project in Bettie. Remember the graphic that ran in The News-Times back in February, showing the huge 463-foot wind turbine dwarfing the Cape Lookout lighthouse? That was a real eye-opener. As it turns out, though, there is a new fleet of even larger, next generation turbines entering the market, with a generating capacity per hour ranging from 2.3 to 3 MW, and maybe more.
1.5 MW utility-scale turbines were designed to harness the prime Class 5, 6 and 7 winds that blow across mountain ridges and in some of the wide open land out West. Carteret County certainly has a good wind resource, but ours are rated as Class 3 or 4 winds. So, are 1.5 MW turbines cost effective in Class 3 and 4 winds? According to the industry, not so much.
The next generation turbines are the industry’s attempt to solve that problem. These turbines are designed specifically for Class 3 and 4 wind regimes, with modifications that include taller towers (to reach the higher wind speeds aloft) and/or longer blades (to capture more wind by increasing the swept area). They are considered the better choice for utility-scale wind energy production in Carteret County, but being so new they don’t have much of a track record.
My intent in raising the issue in Smyrna last week was to make certain our planners had the larger 2.3 to 3MW turbines firmly in their minds as they write codes to regulate the siting of utility-scale wind turbines in Carteret County. In this rapidly evolving industry, it is critical our planners look ahead to write safety setbacks and codes based on what is coming, rather than looking back at precedents set by ordinances based on yesterday’s technology.
Second, regarding wind development in the Croatan National Forest:
One speaker suggested the Croatan would probably be off-limits for wind projects. I questioned that assumption. Since the U.S. Forest Service permits logging, mining, and electric power dams in national forests, we have no basis to assume it would not allow wind energy leases. Whether or not wind development would be suitable in the Croatan is another matter, but it would be a mistake to assume land managed by the U.S. Forest Service would necessarily be off-limits for wind energy development.
The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 prompted the U.S. Forest Service to develop a consistent policy for evaluating and permitting wind energy projects proposed on National Forest lands. The Forest Service is in the process of writing that policy. The public comment period ended in November 2007, and final rules are expected by the end of this year.
1 July 2008
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