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Senate committee approves new restrictions on North Carolina wind farms

A state Senate committee approved new restrictions Wednesday on North Carolina wind farms near military bases and low-level flight corridors.

The measure, which needs approval by the full Senate and House, would allow the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to recommend whether permits for wind farms should be allowed or denied, based on the farms’ expected impact on military bases.

State environmental regulators could not approve a permit if the military department recommends denial.

The bill also allows environmental regulators to deny permits for wind farms if state health officials determine noise or an effect called shadow flicker causes health problems among neighbors.

Legislators established criteria for siting wind farms in 2013 that included getting approval from Eastern North Carolina’s many military installations.

The state’s first utility-scale wind farm, the $400 million Amazon Wind Farm, is under construction in northeastern North Carolina. A Pasquotank County couple is challenging the project, saying it should be reviewed under the 2013 standards.

The Amazon farm’s initial phase would install 104 wind turbines among corn, soybean and wind fields. They will be capable of generating more than 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 60,000 homes for a year.

At their full extent, the installation’s turbine blades will reach nearly 500 feet high.

“Having a 500-foot wind turbine in the flight pattern of a jet going 1,000 mph doesn’t make sense to me,” Raleigh’s WRAL quoted a bill supporter, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, as saying during committee debate Wednesday.

Some lawmakers said the bill needlessly adds red tape to the permitting process. Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a Concord Republican, questioned whether a map showing areas where no turbines could go would violate the rights of area property owners, WRAL reported.