State Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, and two colleagues introduced a bill in the N.C. General Assembly on Wednesday to prohibit the construction of wind farms in much of eastern North Carolina, contending that they represent a threat to military training.
Critics say Brown and his co-sponsors – Sens. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, and Norman Sanderson Jr., R-Pamlico – have misused a map produced at the General Assembly’s direction, of where tall windmills could impact military air training.
The map, developed in a largely secret study by engineering contractor AECOM, highlights in red coastal and inland areas where there is a “significant risk” of impacts to military training and operations.
Adam Forrer of the Southeast Wind Association says those areas mark regions in which the military needs to be involved in the approval process. But the report does not contend that all construction should be banned in those areas.
The site of the state’s only commercial wind project, the Amazon Wind Farm, is located near Elizabeth City in one of those “significant risk” areas. Yet the military reviewed the 104-turbine project before it was built and found it was compatible with military training and operations in the area. Forrer says subsequent studies have shown it has caused no problems for the military.
The military has also reviewed and approved the 48-turbine Timbermill Wind Farm that Apex Wind Energy proposes to build in Chowan County. That county is also in the red area, but the military was consulted and — using its detailed Defense Clearinghouse Process – found that project also presented no issues for the military.
Brown dismisses the objections.
“This evidence-based legislation is a fair and reasonable middle ground that allows for responsible wind energy development while ensuring the United States military can continue operating safely in North Carolina,” he says of the “Military Base Protection Act” he introduced Monday.
But the bill does not appear to allow any development at all in the eastern fifth of the state from just north of Wilmington to the Virginia line and above to Greenville and Rocky Mount.
The bill says wind farms would be “prohibited in any location included in the area designated in red as “Significant” on the map … as the impacts of vertical obstructions in this area have been determined to be significantly high, with a high risk for 14 degrading safety and the military’s ability to perform aviation training.”
The law does not appear to allow for any review by the military of projects within those areas but simply bans them outright.
Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, says the bill is disappointing.
“We oppose any unsupported and unnecessary restrictions on clean energy opportunities in our state,” he says. He argues the report states that areas in red on the map “should be given the highest level of scrutiny during the permitting process.”
“The map does not support or call for a ban on wind or tall structures in any part of the state,” he says.
And Forrer says the bill sends the wrong message to the wind industry as uncertainty remains about the state’s support of such projects following a two-year moratorium on new wind developments that ended in December.
It is not clear whether Brown has sufficient support to push the bill through the General Assembly. Brown and others have made various attempts over the last five years to ban or put a freeze on wind projects in eastern North Carolina. None have ever been approved as a standalone bill. The moratorium that ended months ago was tacked on to the 2017 Competitive Energy Solutions for NC Act, which was a broader and more popular bill on establishing new guidelines for solar development in the state.
But NCSEA spokeswoman Jordan Jones says, “We take every bill seriously and are working hard to educate legislators on the issue.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding