August 5, 2021
North Carolina

County pushes back on offshore wind turbines

By Terry Pope, Associate Editor | The State Port Pilot | Aug 4, 2021 |

Brunswick County Commissioners want any offshore wind turbines built off of local beaches to be at least 24 nautical miles away so they don’t impact tourism and the view of the coast.

Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution Monday in opposition to any wind energy leases within 24 nautical miles of North Carolina’s shoreline. They want the same protections the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has established for the State of Virginia and other areas of coastal North Carolina.

BOEM established a 24 nautical mile no-leasing buffer for Virginia’s coast and the Kitty Hawk area in North Carolina, plus a 33.7 nautical mile buffer to protect the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

“Wind turbines located within the viewshed of Brunswick County beaches would damage tourism and the economy of the county by transforming open ocean views to views of massive industrial machinery,” the resolution adopted Monday states.

It adds, “Such a change would represent a destructive commitment of ocean resources that could irreversibly damage the natural environment and resources that drive our economy.”

BOEM has proposed two areas off Brunswick County for wind turbine leasing by private companies. Areas off of Brunswick and Horry (South Carolina) counties are called Wilmington West (52,000 acres) and Wilmington East (134,000 acres). There is no timeline for offering leases for these areas.

The East area starts slightly more than 11 nautical miles offshore; the West area begins 15.5 nautical miles off the Brunswick coast.

Commissioners asked staff Monday to send the resolutions to Brunswick County municipalities. Towns that have adopted similar resolutions include Bald Head Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach and Caswell Beach. Oak Island is also expected to consider the matter at an upcoming meeting.

Gov. Roy Cooper last month issued an executive order calling for the state to invest more in wind energy and move away from fossil fuels for electricity. Some members of Congress have also stated they want to act quickly and avoid a decade-long moratorium on new wind energy leases set to begin in July 2022.

The county’s resolution states BOEM “has not analyzed the visual impacts of wind turbines on Brunswick County and will likely not do so until it is too late to reasonably do anything about wind turbine distance from shore.”

It states the county is committed to challenge any BOEM issuance of wind energy leases within the visual impact area. It calls on Gov. Cooper, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser and the N.C. General Assembly to protect the state’s ocean viewshed from leases within 24 nautical miles off the shore.

Other business

In other business Monday, commissioners took the following actions:

N Approved an interlocal agreement with Columbus County to provide sewer service to 30 parcels bordering Brunswick County and its industrial parks along U.S. 74/76 west of Leland. The county is in the process of extending sewer lines to the parks located on both sides of the highway. It is a growing business corridor for both counties.

N Renewed a wholesale bulk water service agreement with Holden Beach. The original 40-year term of the wholesale agreement has expired with the new one to take effect September 1.

N Approved an agreement with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the protection, development and improvement of forest land in the county with $270,109 allocated for the county’s share of the annual budget of $675,272.

N Appointed Scott Evans to fill the unexpired term on the Brunswick Community College Board of Trustees. The term will expire June 30, 2023. The seat was held by Dr. Gene Steadman, who resigned effective May 10.

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