After a 5-month examination, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a preliminary report saying that a proposed wind-turbine facility planned for Beaufort County could kill up to 20 bald eagles per year.
The Beaufort County Commissioners on March 9, 2012, approved unanimously granting Invenergy/Pantego Wind Energy the right to build the wind farms. The same week, the state utilities commission granted a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” for the 80-megawatt project, planned for 11,000 acres near Terra Ceia and Pantego. The state, however, said one of the requirements before the 492-foot, blade tip-to-ground wind turbines could be built was that construction and operation must be “in strict accordance” with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other environmental permitting requirements.
However, “strict accordance” is open to question, said opponents of the wind farm, which include local residents, environmentalists, waterfowl hunters and others, who have criticized this proposed site as badly chosen, dangerous to other birds and bats.
“That’s (20) more dead bald eagles that are killed anywhere at any one site in the United States,” said Doris Morris of Friends of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. “Now (Invenergy) is trying to get a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service to allow the wind mills to kill a certain number of bald eagles each year.”
Invenergy’s proposed wind farm is in rural Beaufort County close to the proposed U.S. Navy’s proposed Outlying Landing Field, plans for which were abandoned after a 7-year battle that ended in 2007. One site is only 2 miles from Pocosin Lakes NWR. Twenty landowners already have agreed to lease their land as wind-farm sites.
“Once again, it’s a good idea, but the wrong place,” said Joe Albea of Winterville, who helped lead the successful OLF fight. “We’re not against wind farms or green energy, but there’s got to be a better place to put these things than next to an Atlantic Flyway wintering area for tens of thousands of swans, snow geese, ducks and other birds.”
Kelly Fuller, wind-campaign coordinator for the American Bird Conservancy in Washington, D.C., said the potential killing of 20 bald eagles was way out of line.
“That’s a shocking number,” Fuller said. “Even if we look at the low number, killing four bald eagles a year would be killing more than the current acknowledged eagle deaths of all U.S. wind farms combined for the whole history of the U.S. wind industry.”
Opponents also say that wind energy is a loser as far as affordable energy production is concerned. The only real winner, they say, would be Invenergy, which would receive a large government grant to build the wind farms.
Dr. John Droz, a physicist and environmental activist, said in a presentation to the state legislature that, “Wind energy is not a technologically sound solution to provide us power or meaningfully reduce global warming; it’s not an economically viable source of power; and it’s not environmentally responsible.”
On the other hand, Parker Poe, Adams and Bernstein LLP, a Raleigh law firm that represented Invenergy in front of the state utilities commission, said the wind far would be an economic boon to the area.
“The … Pantego project will generate enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 15,000 North Carolina homes,” the firm said in a news release. “Pantego Wind would provide substantial, long-term economic benefits to our host community. The project is expected to generate more than 100 jobs during construction; at least five permanent operations and maintenance jobs once the project is operational; and more than $1 million annually in local tax revenue, lease payments to landowners, and staff salaries.”