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Currituck hears from wind-powered energy critic

A critic of wind turbine–powered energy is urging the Currituck County Commission to consider crafting a regulatory ordinance to protect county residents.

John Droz, of Morehead City, described himself as a citizen advocate, a scientist, an environmental champion and a defender of the military in appearing before the board at an April 2 Currituck work session.

Droz was at the public podium for approximately 45 minutes, speaking to and fielding questions from the board. Droz told the board he believes there’s a high likelihood Currituck is going to be targeted for a wind energy project in the future.

Droz told the board he believes characterizing the issue of wind-power as a major fight isn’t an exaggeration. “And it’s between special interest lobbyists promoting their clients’ interests and citizens trying to defend their rights,” he said.

“Citizens are losing this fight because they’re not sufficiently educated about such technical issues as our energy options – and because the people doing the promoting are purposefully mischaracterizing the situation – and because lobbyists know which buttons to push with our representatives,” Droz said.

Droz was speaking amid the presence of the new Amazon Wind Farm US East west of Elizabeth City in the Desert area of Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. He said he believes the local economics part of the issue of industrial wind energy “is literally a minefield of painful traps for unsuspecting rural communities.”

Droz told the Currituck commission he believes there are at least 10 reasons why a wind-powered energy project might be an ecological and an economic liability to a host community.

He said they include turbines yearly killing an enormous number of bats, who eat insects and by coincidence protect crops. He put up, on a video screen, projected figures of annual losses to Currituck agriculture from bat deaths. He said a mid-range number could be $1.7 million.

He also said turbines can adversely affect local weather up to 15 miles away, with the humidity that’s supposed to reach crops decreasing and, in turn, causing a decrease in yields.

In making his statements, Droz said the information he provides is from independent studies.

Overall, Droz told the Currituck board, “I’m not opposed to wind energy, but rather to communities getting scammed.”

Instead of listening to what he called “silver-tongued salespeople,” he said communities should take the time and effort to make an informed decision about such an extraordinarily significant long-term matter.

Adam Forrer, who’s Atlantic region manager of the Southeast Wind Coalition, watched the Currituck board’s work session from the audience seating. At the start of the Currituck board’s subsequent regular meeting, Forrer, of Durham, approached the public podium to rebut Droz.

Forrer told the board he found it a bit ironic Droz was quite worried about salesmanship from the wind energy industry “when he practiced what seems to be a decent amount of salesmanship himself.”

At the same time, he took issue with Droz’s presentation. He argued the board the part about the bat deaths Droz cites is from a study including figures from deaths from a bacterial infection, which he said kills about the same number of bats each year. He said he believes Droz didn’t make that clear.

Forrer also emphasized his organization is education-based non-profit that seeks to help provide resources for communities who might have a wind farm.

Commissioner Paul Beaumont said afterward he wanted Droz to speak to the board because he wanted to get ahead of the wind energy issue.

Beaumont was asked whether he has heard any scuttlebutt about someone trying to put a wind farm in Currituck. He said he has heard of a potential location on land, but he said he doesn’t think the place is viable.

He said Droz’s perspective is interesting. “I would agree with his philosophy that the little communities or the smaller communities are stuck trying to handle a very big issue that could potentially come into their area,” he said.