New report says N.C. on right track to expand wind energy

Source: By Katharine Kollins, WRAL • Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2018

It’s a win-win for wind, according to a new report out this week confirming North Carolina is on the right track in its approach to siting wind energy projects, and opening the door to expand the use of wind energy in our state.

According to a newly-released report out from the Navy, conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the 104 turbines at the Amazon Wind Farm US East near Elizabeth City do not interfere with the Navy’s “Relocatable Over The Horizon Radar” facility in Chesapeake, Va. The radar monitors more than 10 million square miles of airspace for the military and law enforcement agencies.

While it’s affirming to have these results following the wind project’s first year in operation, it’s not new information. MIT came to the same conclusion prior to the Amazon project being built, and the military has said for years that wind farms and military facilities can coexist with careful review. This report proves the military was right.

In fact, wind energy projects undergo extensive siting evaluations and permitting involving local, state, and federal governments, including the Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration. Federal laws, initiated in 2010 and recently strengthened by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, require wind projects be approved by the Defense Department’s Siting Clearinghouse. This process evaluates whether turbine construction impedes military operations, including the functionality of any radar systems, by bringing every service branch of all nearby military installations into the review process.

It’s perplexing, really, that the non-military community would push back on military leadership about whether its own evaluation of its operations is sufficient. Retired General John Castellaw, a ranking officer in the Marine Corps who flew often between Marine air stations at New River and Cherry Point during his 36 years of service, is recently quoted saying: “The military already has an effective, non-political, non-emotional, just-the-facts, well-established process for making sure that wind and other energy projects are compatible with operations and promote our national security. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”

I, along with members of Congress, and high-ranking military personnel, am confident our military has its priorities straight as well as the capabilities to ensure our national security is placed above all else.

So now we look to the future of wind energy in North Carolina. The potential is significant. The state’s current wind moratorium is expiring at the end of 2018, and I am hopeful that the validation provided by the MIT report will reaffirm the rigor, technical capabilities, and stakeholder involvement in the Defense Department’s review process for all new projects on the horizon.

The benefits to North Carolina are significant: jobs that boost our rural economies; communities that reap tax payments that go to local schools and town infrastructure needs; and farmers and landowners who have complimentary, profitable uses for their property that benefit their businesses and families. All while our electric grid benefits from the infusion of clean energy generated from a free and abundant fuel source.

With this report, we can turn the page and look forward to continued wind energy development in the state, knowing that any project built here has the full backing of the Defense Department behind it.

Katharine Kollins is president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, working across 11 states to promote land-based and offshore wind, wind imports, and the regions’ supply chain assets.