Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sustainable energy? Get wind of this

What started out as a bill to give the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the authority to issue permits for large electricity-producing wind turbines -- and preventing their location on ridgetops blocking views in Western North Carolina -- wound up as a much different bill in the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday. The committee adopted a substitute bill, dropping the language dealing with ridgetop wind turbines in the western part of the state, and keeping a section giving permit-granting authority to the Coastal Resources Commission to allow construction of wind turbines along the coastline. Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, said the committee will try to deal with the western N.C. sites later on, but wanted to get the permits bill rolling now.

The revised bill allowing coastal area wind turbines would grant permits only after a study of the effects of noise from the turbines, unless they were at least 0.60 miles from a shoreline, and a study of "shadow flicker impacts" unless they were at least 1.6 miles from the shoreline. These features are designed to deal with complaints from neighbors of wind turbines in other states about the strobe-like flickering on sunny days caused by turning of the blades, and the noise problem that some residents have described as like a constant running of a dishwasher.

The bill originally would have banned the sometimes-400-foot-tall turbines from mountaintop ridges. Attorney General Roy Cooper's office opined a few years ago that the state's Ridge Top Law, designed to stop the construction of hotels, condos and other tall structures on mountain ridges that would interfere with the viewscape, prevented construction of the huge turbines -- though it clearly allows windmills of the size more commonly associated with small farms. As Sen. Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, put it, "I do think North Carolina has some opportunities with wind -- particularly at the coast." Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, is especially interested in building windmills in coastal areas, perhaps the state's large sounds that are somewhat protected from the ocean's severe weather.

But some legislators such as Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, believe a ban on wind turbines in Western N.C. conflicts with state law requiring development of new, sustainable energy sources. She’s disappointed that the bill doesn’t recognize places where wind turbines and wind farms -- industrial concentrations of wind turbines -- could be built in the western areas where winds are strong, and said she’s glad to hear of Albertson’s hopes that the bill eventually will address that issue.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jack, I'm with Ellie on this one. Those opposed to allowing wind projects in the mountains are misinformed and short-sighted, and it puts the future of our environment and our energy diversification at risk.

This piece is heavy on imagery and short on words, but it will (hopefully) make people think about this issue a little deeper:

http://bluenc.com/vista-song-joe-sam-martin-and-john

Steve Harrison

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