Brunswick County beach towns that thrive on tourism are banding together to oppose the installation of wind turbines off their shores.
In the last few months Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Caswell Beach and the Village of Bald Head Island have all passed resolutions taking issue with wind turbines that could be seen from their beaches, asking for them to be positioned at least 24 nautical miles away.
Oak Island Mayor Ken Thomas said the town will be working on a similar ordinance soon.
“I’m not against wind energy, or solar or any other kind of energy, but it doesn’t need to be stuck in your face,” Thomas said. “You didn’t buy a vacation home at the beach to look at a wind turbine. They need to be off in the ocean where we don’t see them.”
While each of the resolutions cited the effect the turbines would have on tourism and were not opposed to wind energy, if the turbines are forced to be at least 24 nautical miles off the coast, it could effectively shut down the prospects for new offshore wind energy in North Carolina.
Last month, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order aimed at accelerating wind energy production off the North Carolina coast before a federal moratorium prohibiting offshore leasing for energy production takes effect in July 2022.
The order sets a goal for the state to develop 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy resources by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040.
In order for the state to get more offshore leases in place before the moratorium takes effect, a bi-partisan group of N.C. lawmakers wrote a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management urging the federal agency to “expeditiously” begin leasing existing wind energy areas.
“We respectfully urge the BOEM to take swift action to hold lease sales for two of our existing WEAs – Wilmington East and Wilmington West – so that lease agreements can be executed in advance of the July 1 deadline,” the letter read.
The Wilmington West wind energy area consists of about 51,595 acres starting around 11.5 nautical miles from shore, while the Wilmington East area starts 15.5 miles from shore and is about 133,590 acres.
In order to get leases for wind energy production to take effect before the moratorium, the state would likely have to use the two designated wind energy area off the coast of Brunswick County, only a small sliver of which is outside of 24 nautical miles.
Next week the Bureau of Energy Management will meet with stakeholders to discuss their approach for possible leasing in the area. The agency has granted other jurisdictions, like the state of Virginia, a 24 nautical mile buffer from the shore.
“I think we need to go on record as having concerns,” Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith said at their meeting passing the wind turbine resolution. “And we need to follow up and keep that pressure if it has any meaning whatsoever.”
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