Wind energy could soon be a $1 billion business for North Carolina, and the U.S. Military is fully behind it—recognizing renewable energy as good economics and critical to national security.
But a $300 million project planned in the northeast, and other future wind development, could be stalled if the Legislature again attempts to block it in 2017. And the potential military considerations driving opposition have been greatly overstated.
That was the upshot of yesterday’s briefing on wind energy for local chambers featuring State Rep. Chris Malone, Retired Navy Captain Leo Goff of the Military Advisory Board, and Katharine Kollins, President of the Southeastern Wind Coalition.
Co-hosted by the Edenton-Chowan Chamber and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, the briefing made these three points clear:
1. Wind energy is a big new economic opportunity. “What does wind energy mean to little Chowan County?” asked Win Dale, Executive Director of the Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce, home to the state’s second planned wind farm, Timbermill Wind.
“It means increasing our revenue by $200,000 a year,” he said. In a place that struggles to maintain its tax base and provide jobs, that would make Apex Clean Energy the largest taxpayer in the county.
North Carolina’s first wind farm, Amazon Wind Farm US East, is already under development in nearby Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, and will deliver more than $250,000 a year in tax revenue to each county. Farmers leasing land to the developer, AVANGRID, will earn $6,000 per turbine.
“Wind energy will easily be a billion dollar industry in next couple of years if North Carolina chooses to promote it.” – Katharine Kollins, Southeastern Wind Coalition
2. The NC Legislature has mixed views. “I feel very strongly that clean energy is the way of the future, and we need to do everything we can to make that happen,” Rep. Chris Malone (R) told chamber leaders. A growing number of Republicans, he added, recognize that wind development delivers jobs, economic opportunities, and energy.
But in June, a controversial piece of legislation (HB763, the Military Operations Protection Act) was introduced that could stop wind development and investment in the state on the grounds that it would necessary to protect military flight paths.
3. The military supports wind development. “The U.S. Military is fully committed to renewable energy,” Retired Captain Leo Goff of the Military Advisory Board (MAB) told chamber leaders. “It’s pure national security and economics.”
Certain renewables, such as wind energy, do create challenges, he said. Towers, which can rise more than 200 feet, can create obstructions, for example; and blade rotation can cause interference with radar systems.
“But in my estimation and that of the MAB,” Goff said, “often times, those concerns are far overstated. Our military pilots are trained to fly higher than 200 feet. They do it all time.”
The U.S. Military also has a procedure for evaluating potential obstacles from wind farms before they are developed, and they have been able to resolve most of them.
“The challenges posed by renewables, wind most prevalently, can be overcome,” Goff said. “Wind and the military can cooperate easily.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown is expected to reintroduce the so-called Military Operations Protection Act in January.