March 2, 2015
North Carolina

Wind energy debate continues for Brunswick County officials

By Hannah DelaCourt | March 1, 2015 |

With questions still surrounding the wind energy debate, Brunswick County and some of its municipalities have formally conveyed their concerns to the federal government.

The Brunswick County Commissioners said they still need more information before they can take any formal stance on the topic, but the board unanimously voted at its regular meeting Feb. 16 to send a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opposing wind turbines off the North Carolina coast until its concerns have been adequately addressed.

The federal agency held public hearings on the topic, the last of which was held in Sunset Beach on Feb. 12, and it conducted an environmental assessment to examine the impact of commercial wind leases and site assessment activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf offshore of North Carolina.

The deadline for written comments for the assessment was Feb. 23, prompting the board and some towns to write letters outlining concerns they want addressed prior to allowing wind energy production.

Carol Painter, an Oak Island council member, said even though an environmental assessment was conducted, there were concerns that many items would not be covered under that assessment, prompting Oak Island to send its own letter.

“We were concerned that the process would be well under way before we would get an opportunity to lay our concerns out there,” she said “We aren’t taking a stance, but we would like to see these concerns addressed before we can say how we feel about them.”

Caswell Beach Town Administrator Chad Hicks confirmed that a similar letter was sent to the bureau on behalf of Caswell Beach.

Both towns share concerns including the cost and economic viability of the project, the impact turbines may have on wildlife, how revenue would be distributed, what benefits it could have for the local communities and how it would effect economic development.

One of the biggest concerns from the board was how the beach towns would benefit financially, if at all, from offshore wind farms.

They discussed revenue sharing, with revenues going to the U.S. Treasury and then being distributed by Congress, and whether out-of-state companies would be needed to place the turbines off the coast.

“Let’s make sure if those are going to be off our coast that we get some benefit, and hopefully that can go towards beach nourishment,” Commissioner Frank Williams said as he listed concerns the board had.

Only Vice Chairwoman Pat Sykes and Commissioner Marty Cooke said they do not want them at all.

But Sykes added that she wants to see what the beach towns have to say on the topic.

Sunset Beach Mayor Ron Watts said the town council is set to pass a resolution on offshore wind farms at today’s regular council meeting.

“As much as anything, the lack of information is what we are responding to,” he said.

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