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Project comment time open

NEWPORT – There’s still time for anyone with concerns about Torch Renewable Energy LLC’s proposed wind-solar energy facility to file comments with the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Torch Renewable Energy, a Houston-based company, is seeking to build a wind and solar facility near this town. To that end, it has applied for a state certificate of public convenience and necessity.

The N.C. State Clearinghouse sent an email to the N.C. Utilities Commission Monday, saying that it expects its review of Torch Renewable Energy’s certificate application should be done by Dec. 9. The company filed Oct. 25 for the certificate, which is required by the state for an electric-generating facility to operate.

State statute requires the applicant to issue public notice of the certificate application once a week for four weeks in the county the project is proposed in. During this time, people may contact the commission with concerns and complaints about a proposed project up to 10 days past the final publication date.

The commission issued its order for public notice Nov. 1. Torch Renewable Energy began publishing notice with the News-Times Nov. 15, which means the deadline for public comments is Dec. 23.

Anyone interested in submitting comments on the proposed project to the NCUC may do so by sending an email to statements@ncuc.net. They may also send comments by regular mail to the N.C. Utilities Commission Chief Clerks Office at 4325 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-4325. People submitting comments should refer to the company’s application docket number, SP-3085 Sub 0.

Torch Renewable Energy is proposing to build a hybrid renewable energy facility east of the town’s corporate limits on 7,150 acres owned by the Weyerhaeuser Co. and a private owner. The facility will have 40 wind turbines between Newport and Mill Pond, as well as a 50-75 acre solar panel farm between Little Deep Creek and Little Deep Creek Road.

The company intends to have the facility operational by Dec. 31, 2015. To that end, it’s pursuing not only a certificate of public convenience and necessity, but also the newly required N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources siting permit.

The state created the permit when the General Assembly and governor passed H.B. 484 earlier this year. Torch Renewable Energy is the first company to pursue one of these permits. So far, though, it hasn’t officially submitted an application, though it has held a pre-application scoping meeting with stakeholders such as the Newport town government, DENR and the military.

Newport residents have raised several concerns at public town meetings. Among these concerns have been potential impacts to property value by the turbines, potential environmental impacts, potential public health and safety threats and potential interference with local military operations.

Torch Renewable Energy Vice President of Development Rocky Ray has said, both in a previous article with the News-Times and at public meetings, that the company feels its chosen site is the best available in North Carolina. He said they’re working with the military to address any issues it has with the project, the company doesn’t expect the project to have negative impacts to neighboring property, the environment or health and safety.

Mr. Ray also said the company expects the facility will be beneficial to local residents. This benefit would come in the form of help meeting state energy portfolio requirements, business opportunities, providing tax revenue and providing up to eight permanent jobs for maintenance and upkeep of the facility.