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County seeks wind-farm help

Beaufort County commissioners want three area state legislators to do what they can to persuade their colleagues in the N.C. General Assembly to make it easier for wind farms to be built in Beaufort County so the county can reap revenues associated with the wind farms.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners met Friday with state Reps. Paul Tine, D-Dare County, and Michael Speciale, R-Craven County, and state Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort County, to discuss legislative issues that could affect Beaufort County.

“We’ve gotten past the hurdles with the federal government. The federal government is A OK. They’re fine. It’s the state government that is putting up roadblocks. We would ask you three to push those turbines through because that’s money, tax dollars, in Beaufort County’s pocket. You put up 48 wind turbines down in Pantego, if they get all 48 turbines installed down there, that’s a million dollars in tax revenue. … The only reason they’re not built is because there’s a roadblock in Raleigh,” Commissioner Robert Belcher said.

Belcher said that after county officials talked with federal officials in Washington, D.C., about the wind farm, the federal government gave the green light to the project.

“Some of the (state) senators from the areas where the military bases are have taken the windmill thing and made issues out of it because the base commanders in these area are claiming the windmills will get in the way of training. This is probably, generally, not true, but they’ve made it into an issue. What we would like you guys to be aware of, at least I would as commissioner, is don’t get caught up in the military mess about you’ve got to give us some legislation on windmills because the military’s going to pull out of here if you don’t. That is not true,” Commissioner Hood Richardson said.

In January, Invenergy Wind Development LCC and the U.S. Defense Department reached an agreement concerning mitigation of impacts of the Pantego wind-energy project on military training while pursuing renewable energy development.

The proposed Pantego wind farm (on about 11,000 acres near Terra Ceia) came under close examination by the U.S. military because of its close proximity to flight paths used by military aircraft during training missions, particularly bombing runs by jets from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base at Goldsboro to the Dare County Bombing Range.

The military’s concern focused on the 500-foot-tall wind turbines with their 164-foot blades revolving at 100 mph. The military worried the wind turbines would interfere with jets as they approached the bombing range at an altitude of 500 feet.