N.C. legislators attempt to halt wind farm permits - Smart Energy Decisions

Regulation, Solar, Sourcing Renewables, Wind  -  July 7, 2017

N.C. legislators attempt to halt wind farm permits

North Carolina state legislators June 30 inserted a proposed 18-month moratorium on new wind farm permits into a state renewable energy bill currently awaiting the governor’s signature or veto.

The moratorium bans new wind farm permits until Dec. 31, 2018, and could affect two wind farms planned for eastern North Carolina, one in Chowan County and one in Tyrrell County.

The revised language of HB 589 outlines the purpose of the moratorium, stating that it would allow the North Carolina General Assembly time to study the extent of “the temporal and spatial use of land-, air-, and water-based military operations,” in order to assess how much future wind energy facilities would affect nearby military operations and training.

North Carolina legislators responsible for the moratorium worry that the U.S. Department of Defense would shut down and relocate military bases that potential wind farms would interfere with, ultimately affecting the region’s military-driven economy.

According to The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer, Renewable Energy Systems, the developer of the Little Alligator wind farm planned for Tyrrell County, has an agreement with the DOD and the Air Force to shut off the wind farm’s turbines for up to 380 hours a year if the blades interfere with low-altitude fighter-pilot training from the nearby Air Force base.

“Wind farms must already receive clearance from the Department of Defense as well as the Federal Aviation Administration before they can be built,” the newspaper reported July 5.

However, developers of both projects have expressed concerns over the loss of revenue associated with the delay of the wind farms and are reconsidering the location of their respective projects.

The last-minute addition to HB 589 “has sent a strong and broad message that the State is not favorable for wind energy investment,” RES representatives told The News & Observer.

The original version of the bill was meant to modernize the state’s energy policy by creating a competitive marketplace to make renewable energy more accessible for individual customers. According to a statement from North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, the bill overall, “creates a solar leasing program where customers can work with private parties to take advantage of a competitive market to install renewable energy with competitive pricing.”

Critics of the bill revision argue that the wind farm permit moratorium acts against the interests of businesses in the states seeking to take advantage of renewable energy sources and urge North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the legislation.

“North Carolina had just made a big step forward completing its first major wind energy project, one of the very first in the Southeast, bringing jobs and millions in private investment with it,” Andrew Gohn, Eastern Region policy director for the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement. “Other North Carolina wind projects are close behind, but this moratorium will send their investment to other states who welcome economic growth.”

This is not the first time lawmakers have voiced concerns about wind farm interference with military bases. In January 2017, North Carolina legislators sparred with Amazon Web Services’ planned wind farm in Elizabeth City, N.C., over concerns that the 300-MW wind project would interfere with the nearby Navy radar installation in Chesapeake, Va. The project was ultimately completed and fully operational by February.

The future of the bill, including the original parts promoting solar power and the reduction of renewable energy costs, depends on the signature or veto from Gov. Cooper under a deadline of July 30.

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