STUMPY POINT, N.C. – Military jets will not be able to safely swoop in low for combat training at the Dare County Bombing Range if 30-story wind turbines stand in the way, according to a military report.
The Department of Defense seeks to establish a joint land-use study or agreement with eastern North Carolina counties that would limit construction of wind farms in and near flight paths to the range. F-15E Strike Eagle jets out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Wayne County fly thousands of sorties annually to the range.
Wind turbines including the blades reach heights of approximately 500 feet – about as tall as the 38-story Westin Virginia Beach Town Center – an altitude the Air Force jets often fly as they practice low-level bomb runs, night and day and in bad weather using terrain-reading radar. F/A-18 Hornets from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach also use the range.
The turbines pose a crash risk and disrupt radar, according to a report from Seymour Johnson. Wind energy was a surging economic prospect in the vast farmland tracts of eastern North Carolina, but implementation has been delayed in the past couple of years.
Seymour Johnson officials met in November with representatives from Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, Bertie, Beaufort, Washington and Wayne counties to discuss the land-use agreements. Restrictions could include establishing a military-influence zone near range boundaries and amending local zoning.
Beaufort County officials refused to pass a resolution that might relinquish its development rights to the military, County Manager Randell Woodruff said.
“We want to keep up with the process, but the commissioners were hesitant about adopting a resolution,” he said.
A 49-turbine wind farm proposed for Beaufort County would generate $1 million in annual taxes, Woodruff said. The military allowed the project after its developer, Invenergy, agreed to move it about 2 miles, he said. The wind farm is on hold pending permits and energy buyers.
Washington County officials have not yet passed a resolution to join the land-use agreement, County Attorney Curtis Potter said. Dare and Hyde have passed resolutions to join.
“We definitely want to be involved,” Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said. “But we want to make sure it does not restrict us.”
The Hyde County airport lies a few miles from the range on U.S. 264. The remote airport supports a small amount of traffic but has plans to develop a drone site.
Rich does not expect limits around the range to interfere.
“We have lived in concert with them for a long time, and it’s worked out fine,” he said.
The bombing range was built in 1965, according to GlobalSecurity.org, a website that compiles military information. The 46,000-acre tract offers a variety of targets for practice with inert bombs surrounded by miles of wildlands. It occupies one-quarter of the Dare County mainland. The Navy uses the northern section, and the Air Force uses the southern section, according to the Seymour Johnson report.
The Dare range is the primary site for air-to-surface target training on the East Coast, according to a news release from Seymour Johnson.
The Department of Defense has established more than 100 joint land-use studies or agreements across the country since 1985, including for Oceana, according to the department’s Office of Economic Adjustment, the agency organizing the study.