Wind farm projects changing landscape in eastern North Carolina
Top North Carolina Republican lawmakers want the incoming Trump administration to shut down a $400 million wind farm, claiming turbines nearly 500 feet high could interfere with military radar.
Ten legislators, including Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, signed the letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, the Associated Press reported.
The opposition comes with the wind farm weeks away from beginning operation, and after years of clearing regulatory hurdles, a spokesman for builder Avangrid Renewables told AP. Amazon will buy the output to run its Virginia data centers.
The Navy, which operates the radar installation in Chesapeake, Va., signed off on the project in 2014, Avangrid said. The wind farm covers 22,000 acres near Elizabeth city in northeastern North Carolina.
“If the wind farm threatened any military readiness or capabilities, they wouldn’t have cleared us to build,” spokesman Paul Copleman told AP by email. “Specifically at this site, we reduced the size of the project, arranged specific turbines differently, ran extensive modeling in conjunction with their scientists, and will continue to share operating data once we reach full commercial operation.”
The lawmakers’ letter said the Pentagon signed off on the project because of a “political correctness focus” by President Obama’s administration and its “promotion of unscientific and nonsensical ‘All of the Above’ energy sources (and renewable energy in particular) at essentially any cost.”
State Republican legislators have said they will continue to fight for a measure that failed in 2016 but would ban wind farms that might interfere with military airspace, which covers large swaths of the state.
One of the letter signers, Sen. Louis Pate, a Mount Olive Republican, told AP he is concerned the turbines would create an obstacle for military jets based in North Carolina and Virginia.
Pate said “we do need to be aware of what impact it might have upon military operations. We’ve spoken out over the course of the past three years or so, and we don’t seem to be getting a lot of attention.”
Another Republican legislator, Rep. Bob Steinburg of Chowan County, disagreed. Steinburg, whose district includes the wind farm, said the letter is less about the military and more about a long-running fight against renewable energy among conservative lawmakers.
“This has very little to do about the military and everything to do with anti-renewables,” he told Coastal Review Online, an online news service published by the North Carolina Coastal Federation, an advocacy group.
Apex Clean Energy plans a second farm in the same region but officials in Perquimans County denied a permit, saying the 599-foot-tall turbines didn’t fit the heavily timbered region and could hurt property values. Residents have complained that the structures will make noise, produce headache-inducing shadows and kill birds.