NEWPORT – Retired Col. Jimmie Green sees a proposal that would put wind turbines nearly 500 feet high not far from Cherry Point’s airfield from the perspective of a former Marine pilot.
There’s reason for concern, he said.
The height alone of industrial wind turbines can be a physical obstruction for military pilots training in the area, he said. The operation of wind turbines also is known to cause interference with air traffic control radar, potentially distorting radar images for pilots and ground control, he said.
“I’m concerned about Cherry Point,” said Green, a former chief of staff at Cherry Point.
Green spoke during a community forum held last week in Newport to discuss the proposed wind energy facility in Carteret County, known as the Mill Pond project.
Texas-based Torch Renewable LLC has proposed plans for a wind and solar energy facility that would be located on more than 7,000 acres in the Newport area.
Most of the proposed site is land owned by Weyerhaeuser with about 150 acres of private property. A portion of the site is located within Newport’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and the rest within the county’s jurisdiction.
The proposal calls for about 40 wind turbines as well as a solar panel farm. The company plans to sell power from the facility to Duke Energy Progress.
About 100 people attended the forum and presentation given by John Droz Jr. of Morehead City, a retired physicist who has researched environmental energy issues.
Of those who spoke during a question-and-answer period at the end of the presentation, nearly everyone was critical of the proposal; and the concerns about impacts on Cherry Point and the military-dependent economy of the region were mentioned often.
Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones, who owns a business in Havelock, was a member of the former Governor’s Land Compatibility Task Force, which looked at issues including encroachment on military training from land and air.
Air space available for military training has decreased over the past 30 years. If encroachment continues and the military can’t train here, there is concern about the future of military bases in the area, he said.
“I’m concerned for the economy of the region if we start putting up wind turbines close to military bases,” Jones said after the meeting. He is also a member of the Eastern Region Economic Development Commission.
Droz opened the meeting with a presentation on his findings on the impact of wind energy from a technical, economic and environmental perspective.
And while his views were critical of wind energy, he said his goal was to provide information.
“My main objective is to get you thinking,” Droz said.
His concern is that wind energy decisions are being made through lobbying and political influences rather than being science-based.
And, he said, there are misrepresentations being made.
“There is no such thing as wind energy by itself,” Droz said.
Wind energy cannot be available on-demand all the time and requires an augmenting source of power, which is usually gas, he said.
His presentation also notes that wind energy is not economically viable, with higher costs for consumers and subsidies required to make projects possible.
Droz said there are also environmental impacts. He said the processing of rare earth elements used in the production of wind turbines destroys vegetation, produces air pollution and results in radioactive waste.
A copy of the Droz presentation is posted on his webpage on the project at wiseenergy.org/carteret-wind/.
But not everyone at the forum spoke against wind energy.
Carteret County resident Penny Hooper, a member of the Interfaith Power and Light steering committee, said the burning of fossil fuels is not a “sustainable” plan and is putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. She said a variety of renewable energy sources will be needed to meet the energy demand.
But the Mill Pond project is not one that the majority said they want to see.
Carteret County commissioners Bill Smith and Elaine Crittenton and state Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico, were among those who attended.
The project hasn’t yet made it to the county level for consideration, but Crittenton said it seems to be one that is being pushed through by a “heavy governmental hand.”
Sanderson said a new law took effect earlier this year requiring that wind energy facilities get a siting permit from the state, but it’s going to take citizens banding together to make their voices heard.
Torch Renewable has not yet made a formal application to the state for a siting permit but it has applied for a state certificate of public convenience and necessity from the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Jannette Pippin is a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News.