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Wind farm project generating controversy, not electricity

WASHINGTON, N.C. – A proposed wind farm in Beaufort County has generated more than electricity today.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission heard from people for and against the installation of 50 wind turbines east of Highway 32 near Pantego.

Nine On Your Side wanted to know what impact it could have on wildlife and how it could benefit Beaufort County.

Who knew a source of green energy could bring about such a whirlwind of emotion?

“While the wind farm itself was a great idea, the best project in the world located in the wrong spot, all of a sudden, becomes the worst project in the world,” said Larry Hodges with the Friends of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s in Beaufort County, along an 11,000 acres span of land that Invenergy hopes to place 50 wind turbines. A project they estimate will cost $160 million.

Pantego Wind Energy LLC and its parent company, Invenergy, wants to place the wind turbines just north of 264 between Washington and Pantego.

Reports filed to the NC Utilities Commission by Invenergy and obtained by Nine On Your Side show the company expects to replace 25 to 36 percent of net energy used with wind power, but opponents say the wind isn’t there.

“It would really not make any sense for an experienced company like Invenergy to go forward with constructing a project that they really didn’t believe was ever going to produce any power,” said James McLawhorn, the Director of Electric Division.

Members of the Pocosim Wildlife Refuge, where the turbines are expected to be installed, are still concerned they’ll do more harm than good.

“The proposed project is down in this area and, of course, the birds use all of this agricultural land, as you can see from this checkered-board pattern, for foraging,” said Pocosin Wildlife Refuge Manager Howard Phillips.

He said he’d like to see more studies done, particularly for the tundra swan and Bald Eagle, “Where the wind farm is proposed is a known area for foraging for Tundra Swans and again, we’re getting 70 to 80 percent of that eastern population right here so that’s a significant part of the population.”

Both sides plan to argue the topic at the county commissioners meeting on December on 12th.

Reports filed by Invenergy says the construction of the turbines could bring as many as 100 jobs to the area and would not cost taxpayers any money since it’s a private business.

There is no set timeline on when the North Carolina Utilities Commission can give the ok to build.

Invenergy said they were not prepared to talk with media but will contact us as soon as they can.


Waterfowl Refuge Tour

A refuge tour of the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is being offered to the public to see beautiful wintering waterfowl that call this area their home during the winter months.

The Friends of PLNWR has had the pleasure of helping the refuge provide several tours during the spring and summer season. This will be the second of four waterfowl refuge tours that the Friends of Pocosin Lakes NWR will be assisting Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge during the 2011-2012 wintering waterfowl season. The tour will be on Sunday afternoon, December 11, 2011, starting at 1:30 pm, ending around dark.

Our Waterfowl Tour guides are from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Mike Dunn, Senior Manager of Outreach and Melissa Dowland, Teacher Education Specialist. Sherryreed Moore, Visitor Outreach Specialist from Pocosin Lakes will be joining the tour to assist in helping to educate and address any questions from the public concerning the refuge.

Typically wintering waterfowl usually arrive in November and reach peak numbers in December or January. Tundra swans and snow geese are usually the most visible, but we see over 20 different species of ducks on the refuge in the winter as well. “One of our tram tours would be a great way to learn more about the diversity of birds and other wildlife found on the refuge,” stated Howard Phillips, Refuge Manger.

Areas of the refuge with the greatest opportunities for seeing beautiful tundra swans and snow geese will be visited. Along the journey you will have an opportunity to see an array of nature and other wildlife.

The refuge will be using an open-air passenger tram to allow you the full vision of nature at its finest during the tour. We invite you to bring your camera, binoculars, and to dress for the weather, with comfortable shoes for short walks; or if walking will be difficult, you are welcome to stay on the tram and sit back and enjoy the view.

Join us at the Pungo Unit Maintenance Shop @ 601 Refuge Road, Pantego, NC 27986. The tour is free to the public, but donations would be greatly appreciated to offset expenses to be able to maintain these adventures with nature. Reservations will be taken on a first come/first served basis. Please contact Jennifer Alligood (at 252-943-7544 or @ threads920@gmail.com) or Doris Morris (at 252-505-9735 or 252-809-2724 or @ doris.morris@noolf.com).

“The Friends of Pocosin Lakes NWR is honored to help provide this opportunity to the public to enjoy the breath-taking beauty that only the tundra swans can gratify, as well as get a firsthand experience of what the Friends group is about,” stated Doris Morris, Vice-President of Friends.