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County sets hearing on zoning for big turbine

Dare County is moving forward with zoning changes that would allow construction of a 500-foot-tall wind turbine in Skyco.

The Board of Commissioners has set a public hearing for April 18 on zoning amendments and regulations that would apply to the prototype envisioned by Gamesa USA Energy and Northrop Grumman.

The two companies are looking at sites on and around the planned campus of the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute on Roanoke Island. CSI would participate in wind turbine research.

County Manager Boby Outten told the commissioners that the companies plan to create a new generation of turbine for wind farms 15 miles offshore. A prototype at Skyco would test materials and designs that would be used for a second test turbine offshore somewhere else.

He said some of the power generated would be put back into the electrical grid.

“They’re in the design phase right now,” he said. “They haven’t gotten that far with it.”

Proposed regulations would limit industrial-sized turbines to the Highway 345 zoning district in the Skyco area on lots of 25 acres or more. Wind energy test facilities such as a prototype turbine would have to be associated with a public university or research agency.

The regulation would also cap the height to 600 feet at the apex of a turbine blade and would create a fall zone two times the height of a structure from a structure, a public right-of-way or utility lines.

Also proposed is a requirement for a decommissioning plan and posting of a performance or surety bond. The requirement is aimed at concerns that a wind turbine might be abandoned, leaving the county with the cost of removing it.

Under the proposal, the Board of Commissioners could approve a conditional use permit for a wind research facility.

Among the conditions is that an environmental assessment, in addition to potential impacts on wetlands and wildlife, address noise, shadow flicker, views, vibrations, cultural and archaeological affects and the tourism and community benefits of a project.

The county planning board will consider the zoning proposal first. Ordinances addressing commerical and residential turbines will be considered separately at a later time, Chairman Warren Judge said.

Gamesa’s research is part of an overall push by the United States to move to wind power and set up offshore farms with as many as 100 turbines.

Gamesa made a presentation on the project to the Board of Commissioners Feb. 21.

The proposed turbine would be similar to but larger than another prototype recently finished at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment in Lewes just north of Rehoboth Beach.