NEWPORT – Torch Renewable Energy LLC is adjusting its plans for a wind and solar energy facility to accommodate the people and agencies around the proposed site, according to town manager Tim White.
Mr. White and Town Planner Bob Chambers attended a scoping meeting Tuesday in Wilmington on the company’s proposed facility for the Newport area.
Mr. White said the company has reduced the number of turbines it proposes for their facility from 50 to 40 and have rearranged some of the proposed turbines’ locations to accommodate Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
“The meeting went very well,” Mr. White said. He provided a rundown of the meeting as the public could not attend. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which conducted the meeting, said it was closed because it was with a potential client.
“It was an exchange of information, with Torch asking what additional information they could provide,” Mr. White said.
Company officials spoke to multiple local, state, federal and military agency representatives at the scoping meeting.
The company is looking to build on deeded property: 7,000 acres belonging to the Weyerhaeuser Company of New Bern and 150 acres from an unnamed, private owner, both tracts just east of the corporate limits of Newport. In addition to the wind turbines, the facility will have a 50-75 acre solar panel farm between Little Deep Creek and Little Deep Creek Road.
According to publicly available documents from the scoping meeting, the project comes with a capital investment cost of $180-250 million. It will tap into the power grid through Duke Energy Progress, though Tammie McGee of Duke Energy Progress said in an email Thursday that Duke Energy Renewables is not directly involved in the project.
Torch Renewable Energy chose the site after reviewing nine potential locations across four counties over eight months. The company found the site near Newport avoids restricted airspaces and is in Duke Energy Progress’s service territory. The company said a facility on the site won’t impact the view on any scenic byways and will compliment forest-growing and landowner operations.
The company said the site has existing transmission potential and has a highly energetic wind resource with wind speeds of 6.5 meters per second (14.51 mph). This would allow a facility there to help meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard – a requirement to provide a certain percentage of power through renewable energy sources – of 12.5 percent by 2021. The site also has proximity to the Morehead City port and the N.C. railroad.
Mr. White said DENR will be passing down more information to the town staff as it’s received by the department. A General Assembly bill recently made into law, H.B. 484, requires anyone who wants to create a wind energy facility to get a new state permit, established by the bill and issued by DENR.
In addition to the siting permit from DENR, Torch Renewable Energy will also need several other permits, including:
• A state Coastal Area Management Act permit.
• A state Erosion Control permit.
• Pre- and post-construction state stormwater permits.
• Newport building and conditional-use permits.
• A Carteret County building permit.
• A Carteret County wind energy permit.
• A Federal Aviation Administration determination of no hazard.
• A N.C. Division of Water Quality 401 certification.
• A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 permit.
Newport is working on new ordinance language to regulate wind energy turbines. The town planning board recommended approval to the council of a draft ordinance at the regular board meeting Oct. 21, which was turned into a special council meeting so the council could attend. The council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at its regular council meeting Nov. 14.
The draft ordinance, if approved, would require applicants for a town building permit for building wind energy turbines to first get all necessary state permits. It would also require a minimum setback of 1,300 feet from property lines for wind turbines, plus an additional setback of 2½ feet for every foot of height on the turbines. There would also be a shutdown requirement for wind turbines if they produce noise over 45 decibels at the property line for over 48 consecutive hours.
This shutdown requirement would also apply if the turbines produce shadow flicker or light glint on any non-participating property at more than 120 seconds per day for seven consecutive days (20 hours maximum per year) and if it falls within 100 feet from an existing residence or business property. Flicker and glint may not fall on roadways; the only exception will be roads with traffic volume less than 500 vehicles per day and if the flicker or glint doesn’t fall on an intersection of public roads.