An experimental wind machine that could reach 500 feet into the Outer Banks skyline will be the subject of a public hearing April 18. If it wins Dare County commissioners’ approval, the project could pave the way for future offshore wind farms.
Two companies – Gamesa Energy and Northrop Grumman – have partnered to build the turbine on one of a few possible sites near the tiny village of Skyco on Roanoke Island’s southern half. The project – essentially a one-turbine control group – is part of a broader experiment aimed at perfecting Gamesa’s offshore wind-energy generators. Plans are also in the works to build an experimental turbine in the ocean somewhere off the North Carolina coast.
In a presentation last month, Gamesa representative Todd Hopper said that Skyco is the ideal place for the project’s land-based turbine because of its proximity to water and isolation from development. He asked Dare County commissioners to consider amending zoning laws to accommodate the project.
County planning staff members drafted some proposed changes and presented those ideas last week. Commissioners agreed to have the county planning board weigh in at its meeting April 11, and the public can have its say at 5:30 p.m. on April 18.
The biggest change would be the addition of wind-energy turbines to the list of approved conditional uses in the Highway 345 Business District – granted that the turbine is associated with a “public university research agency.”
In this case, that agency would be the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute. Several of the turbine’s proposed sites are located on the campus, and Director Nancy White has said the institute is interested in partnering with Gamesa.
“Renewable energy isn’t going to improve without research,” she said at a recent commissioners’ meeting.
Staff members have also proposed a maximum turbine height of 600 feet. The turbine’s operators would also be required to mitigate noise and visual annoyances, called shadow flicker.
Gamesa intends to sell the electricity generated by the turbine to recoup some of its design-and-build costs – which, Hopper estimated, could be as high as $20 million. The company aims to install the turbine next year.
As far as what the project could mean economically for Dare County, Hopper committed to nothing. He said Gamesa manufacturing factories are likely to open “somewhere.”
So far, two county commissioners have been vocal about their views.
Commissioner Mike Johnson said he sees the turbine as an eyesore in an otherwise pristine environment. And he expressed doubt that the project would benefit the county in terms of jobs or investment.
On the other side, Commissioner Richard Johnson has said that he supports the project “100 percent.”
“Somebody’s going to do this. I would rather see us participate in it,” he said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding