Opposition blows up: Some object to second coastal wind farm

Source: By The Associated Press • Posted: Monday, August 15, 2016

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — As the largest windfarm in the southeastern United States takes shape near Elizabeth City some people are concerned about plans for a second wind farm with even larger turbines a short distance away near the North Carolina coast.

The wind farm under construction will provide power for Amazon data centers in the state of Virginia.

But The News and Observer of Raleigh reports (http://bit.ly/2aVSCkG ) opponents backed by law firms in Raleigh and Durham are fighting a second wind farm – the Apex Timbermill Wind project. Some state lawmakers want stricter standards for wind farms.

Hearings on conditional use permits for the second wind farm are being held in Perquimans and Chowan Counties later this month.

“People came to this area of the state for a purpose – they came to get away from it all,” said William Brian Jr., an attorney representing Chowan County residents. “These are huge structures. They make noise, they cast shadows, they chop up birds, and they can be seen from miles and miles around.”

But a spokesman for Apex Clean Energy, which is based in Charlottesville, Virginia, says the turbines are consistent with existing agricultural zoning and landowners will benefit from leases for their property.

“We are paying pretty handsomely here,” said Don Giecek, Apex’s project manager for the Timbermill wind farm. “We also pay for crop damage. And we would pay for any change in their personal property tax.”

Each county could realize more than $750,000 a year in property tax revenue from the project and farmers leasing their land could receive more than $500,000 per turbine over 30 years.

While the turbines for the Amazon project rise almost 500 feet into the air, the Timbermill project is expected to have turbines that are almost 600 feet tall and would be the largest in the nation, the newspaper reported.

While North Carolina has some of the best wind energy resources on the East Coast, the wind is also located in areas that are ecologically sensitive, where retirees are relocating and which attract tourists.

At the same time, however, the wind farms mean revenue for rural counties with high unemployment.

State lawmakers have proposed bills restricting wind farms that would interfere with military flight paths or disrupt the rural quality of life.

One bill, which failed to pass in Raleigh this year, proposed a buffer of 1.5 miles between turbines and their nearest neighbors. That would disqualify dozens of possible sites for wind farms.