Raleigh, N.C. – Almost two years after lawmakers put a halt to new wind farms in the state, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown on Wednesday filed a bill to get wind energy blowing again in parts of North Carolina – but not in an area that most needs the development.
It was Brown, R-Onslow, who stuck the 18-month wind farm moratorium into a bill overhauling the state’s solar energy policies in the summer of 2017. He argued that giant turbines could interfere with training exercises near military bases across eastern North Carolina.
Military officials, who must sign off on all wind farm projects, said no projects pending at the time would have interfered with training.
During the moratorium, the state Department of Commerce and an engineering firm mapped the areas near military bases and training zones to identify where tall turbines would pose low, medium or high risks to training operations.
“The comprehensive mapping effort, if used as a template, should provide the state compatible growth around military installations that doesn’t interfere with ranges and military installation missions,” retired Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson and retired Lt. Gen. Gary McKissock said in a joint statement. “This proposal brings clarity to an issue that may possibly weigh against North Carolina’s military installations in future [base closure] evaluations.”
Dickerson previously served as commander of Camp Lejeune, while McKissock was commander of Marine Corps Logistics Bases and Marine Corps Material Command.
Brown’s proposal would prohibit wind farms in high-risk areas on the map, which include a 100-mile swath along the coast between the Virginia state line and Camp Lejeune.
The new legislation “would remove many of the areas in North Carolina where wind has the opportunity for the greatest economic benefits. Many of the most economically distressed counties in eastern North Carolina also have some of the best wind resources,” said Adam Forrer of the Southeastern Wind Coalition.
“We shouldn’t take any action that jeopardizes the United States military’s ability to safely train the brave men and women who serve our country,” Brown said in a statement. “Beyond that, though, the military is the lifeblood of eastern North Carolina’s economy. It supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. Constructing obstacles that degrade the military’s ability to conduct training exercises puts our military bases at risk of closure.”
According to the North Carolina Military Business Center, the Department of Defense is the second-largest sector of the state’s economy, accounting for 12 percent of gross domestic product. The Department of Commerce reported in 2015 that the military supported 10 percent of North Carolina’s total employment.
The legislation isn’t trying to shut down one of the East Coast’s first wind farms, which is spread across Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, Brown said. The operation of more than 100 turbines, each standing more than 30 stories tall, is one of the largest taxpayers in the two impoverished counties.
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