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Tilting at windmills  

Credit:  News-Times | January 25, 2014 | www.carolinacoastonline.com ~~

I have followed the wind farm issue in Newport just enough to have formed an opinion at to why it is a fool’s quest. And it has nothing to do with Cherry Point, bird strikes, noise, effects on tourism or any other of the many objections I have read. My objection is purely the finances of the project.

The project is a three-legged financial stool built on politics. If any leg is removed the project collapses. First is the federal subsidy for which the project is eligible. Second is a state subsidy. These will offset over half the cost of construction costs (taxpayer dollars).

Third is the state mandate that 12.5% of generated electricity will come from renewable sources including solar (wind is solar energy in a different form) and the mandate that public utilities buy it at whatever the cost. Currently that cost, even after the construction subsidies, is far above generation by current conventional means. Duke Energy estimates the additional cost to consumers at $100 million.

Any company in business must make a profit to stay in business and we should not begrudge that profit. It is what allows companies to grow, hire and further benefit the community. If any of those three legs is removed this project is no longer viable (profitable). Of special concern is the purchase mandate enacted by the Legislature. What is enacted can be repealed and we have already heard rumblings from the Legislature to modify the mandate because progress toward the goal is slower than expected.

In one scenario, when the project is no longer profitable the operator walks away. Eventually we have a real eyesore with missing or bent blades thanks to a passing hurricane, rusting or decaying towers and a solar farm slowly collapsing. Eventually some government entity will step in and spend more taxpayer dollars to clean up the site.

Don’t misread me. Solar and wind energy have their places. The Coast Guard uses panels to power aids to navigation. DOT uses them to power signs in areas where running a conventional power line is prohibitively expensive. Windmills recharge batteries on boats and remote cabins and camps.

Eventually the costs of conventional and non-conventional forms of energy will converge as technology brings them together and these forms of generation will take their place on the grid. Until that time companies chasing taxpayer dollars to build these installations are doomed to fail. Many already have.

We, in Carteret County, shouldn’t be party to this folly. We’d only end up with a decaying junk pile in Newport to show for it.

JIM KRAFT

Morehead City, N.C.

Jan. 23, 2014

Source:  News-Times | January 25, 2014 | www.carolinacoastonline.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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