December 19, 2013
North Carolina

Public weighs in on Torch proposal

MIKE SHUTAK | News-Times | December 18, 2013 |

RALEIGH – People from around Carteret County have been voicing their thoughts to the N.C. Utilities Commission on Torch Renewable Energy LLC’s proposed wind and solar facility.

The commission is taking comments until Monday on the Houston-based company’s proposed project.

The company proposes to build a hybrid renewable energy facility east of the Newport 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-to-75-acre solar panel farm between Little Deep Creek and Little Deep Creek Road.

To operate such a facility at this location, the company needs to get a state certificate of public convenience and necessity from the utilities commission. As part of that process, the commission is taking public comments, and as of Dec. 12, has received 31 emails and letters, according to the commission’s website.

Opinions have been varied in the comments sent to the commission. Some people have been opposed to the project, citing concerns that have been brought up at public meetings, such as impacts to property value, impacts to the operations at nearby Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, public safety and environmental impacts. Others, however, have been in favor of the project, saying the facility would provide a source of renewable energy and would lessen people’s dependency on foreign oil sources.

Donna DiPietrantonio, a lifelong Newport resident, said Dec. 4 there are many things that need to be taken into consideration about the project.

“A main one would be our weather,” she said. “You never know what type of weather you’re going to get from day to day. How do you think these turbines would fare if a hurricane came though? Would you want these metal blades flying across your property at over 100 mph?”

Ms. DiPietrantonio is also worried about birds flying into the turbine blades, as well as the possibility that they’ll be audible beyond the facility’s property line. She said nobody she’s spoken with agrees with Torch Renewable Energy’s proposal.

Newport residents aren’t the only ones with an opinion on the project. Robert and Karen Clarke of Cape Carteret wrote to the NCUC Dec. 6; they said people’s representatives in their town councils, planning boards and state must consider the “devastation this is going to cause this area.

“You must start to consider the people that are going to be affected,” they said, “and don’t rush into foolish, feel-good ideas as this…Has anyone taken into consideration or even care what this is going to do to tourism in Carteret County? Also, how about our property value? Will anyone want to buy a home near one of these eyesores, not counting the noise they create?…We believe the people responsible for this need to step back and reconsider what is being done here and consider how you would like living near these monstrosities.”

Not everyone who has commented thinks the facility is a bad idea. Robert Meadows of Beaufort said he implores the commission to lend its support and approval for wind turbines to be developed in Carteret County.

“Wind energy has been determined to be a viable source of renewable electric power in North Carolina,” he said. “One of the major advantages of wind turbines in our state is the availability of the wind along the coast and the reduction of oil-related pollution sources that endanger our air, water and soil. Our state can be a leader in bringing about the inevitable changes that must take place in order to rid our skies, rivers and land of the dangerous pollutants, which threaten the future for ourselves and for our children. Wind power can be the means of bringing about our independence from our present, dangerous, nonrenewable oil addiction.”

Dr. Craig Harms of the N.C. State University’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City, said on Nov. 25 that he’s all for diversifying the county’s energy supply. Dr. Harms said in a phone conversation Monday that he made his statements, not as a representative of CMAST or N.C. State University, but as a private citizen.

“Recognizing that no energy source is free of negative consequences,” he said in his email, “I would far rather have a wind farm in my back yard than an oil refinery.”

Anyone interested in submitting comments on the proposed project to the NCUC may do so by sending an email to 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.

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