Wind farm projects changing landscape in eastern North Carolina
A freeze on new wind turbines the Senate approved for wide swaths of the state is gone from a new proposal on regulating wind turbines.
House and Senate negotiators removed the moratorium the Senate approved in Senate bill 377 and added an addition to the state permitting process by requiring the state to ask for more information from military commanders.
Companies that want to erect wind turbines must already seek local, state and federal approval.
The bill approved by a House committee Tuesday was described as a compromise between the House and Senate. It is a drastic change from the ban on wind turbines Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican, first proposed. Brown has said wind farms pose a threat to military bases because they can interfere with flight training. Wind farms could weaken future campaigns to keep bases in the state when federal committees evaluate military installations for closure or consolidation, he argued.
The revised bill protects the military and “provides certainty” to the wind-energy industry by defining where they cannot go, said Rep. John Bell, a Goldsboro Republican. Bell, the House majority leader, helped negotiate the compromise.
If the full House approves, the bill would go back to the Senate for a vote on the changes.
Originally, the bill would have banned wind turbines from parts or all of more than 40 counties, including most counties in eastern North Carolina. It was a controversial proposal that split Senate Republicans and drew opposition from the renewable energy industry and Weyerhaeuser, one of the state’s largest landowners. Wind farms have the potential to beef up the tax base in rural counties.
Brown said Tuesday he had not had a chance to look at the changes.
An 18-month moratorium on wind turbine construction that Brown pushed for recently ended.
Critics said a ban was too extreme, considering that the military has a siting clearinghouse that works to make sure that structures like wind turbines won’t disrupt pilot training.
Wind project developer Apex Clean Energy, a Virginia company, has plans for a wind farm in Chowan County. One of its lobbyists said Tuesday the company was comfortable with the bill.
Sen. Jim Perry, a Lenoir County Republican who helped negotiate the compromise, said it does not protect airspace for the military as much as he and others in the Senate would have liked.
“I think in the lawmaking process it is sometimes valuable and important to take small steps on things,” he said. “I think this bill is another small step in the right direction.”