See also, comments from John Droz Jr, below
Carteret County News-Times
North Carolina:Torch Energy abandons wind-solar proposal
Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 6:37 pm | Updated: 7:28 pm, Fri Jan 31, 2014.
(updated with comments from County Manager Russell Overman)
MOREHEAD CITY — Torch Renewable Energy LLC, the Houston-based alternative energy giant, announced Friday it will abandon plans to develop a hybrid wind and solar facility near Mill Pond outside Newport.
“In light of the unlikely prospect of acquiring a variance from the county’s current tall structures ordinance, we have decided not to move forward with the project,” Torch Energy’s vice president of development Rocky Ray said in a prepared release.
The project – which proposed 40 turbines and an array of solar panels in an area in Newport’s extraterritorial jurisdiction – has caused public outcry over the safety, efficiency, economic and military impacts the facility could have on the area.
County commissioners held a public hearing Jan. 2 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center, enacting a moratorium on permitting for wind turbine structures and stalling the proposal in an effort to further investigate repercussions of wind facilities.
“All I can say is that the current ordinance in place had to have factored into their decision,” said Chairman Jonathan Robinson of the announcement. “I’m sure that and the climate and the controversy that surrounded this proposal led to their decision (to terminate).”
Mr. Robinson said he felt the board acted in due diligence imposing the moratorium and would continue to look at the ordinance, despite the project retraction from Torch.
The variances necessary for the project, cited by Torch in the release, are likely alterations to the ordinance’s 3,300-foot setback requirement, said County Manager Russell Overman.
The proposed project would require smaller setbacks to the perimeter to facilitate placement of all 40 of the structures, according to information gleaned by county officials. Mr. Overman said the county was given notice of the dropped proposal Friday afternoon.
Torch Renewable, though in communication with county officials, never submitted an application for permitting of any kind in Carteret County regarding the turbines. An application is on file with the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Several prominent locals have spoken out against the proposal, including Commissioner Robin Comer and Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret.
Additionally, Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., announced Friday ongoing concerns on the impact turbines would have on National Weather Service radars in the area.
Torch said earlier this month the company was already in mitigation with officials out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to remedy possible turbine interference with airspace.
“The state of North Carolina and the Department of the Navy have very rigorous processes in place to ensure that no wind farm in any way jeopardizes military activities,” Mr. Ray said in the release. “We were looking forward to working through those processes to bring renewable energy to the region.”
Mr. Robinson said the board will fine tune the ordinance and would be open to other alternative energy proposals, given they do not interfere with Cherry Point.
“Our first duty is to safeguard the public and the health of the citizenry. We’re married to Cherry Point here, so the height of the turbines was a main concern for us,” he said.
The proposal was for 500-foot-tall turbines.
Supporters of the clean energy project told the board earlier this month that such projects could bring industry and new possibilities to the Crystal Coast.
North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard calls for 12.5 percent of the state’s energy to be provided by alternative means by 2021.
Torch could not be reached for further comment at this time.
Activist John Droz, has the following comments on the Torch withdrawal, and on the efforts of his community to halt the wind power project. While not all the things they did would be possible in Ontario, where the Green Energy Act has completely removed local land use planning powers, the organization’s checklist of demands for the wind power developers are very useful.
This coordinated effort was too much for the developer, and last night they officially threw in the towel. (Here is a newspaper article.)… It took just 3± months of a focused campaign to win.
This came about because of two fundamental reasons:
1 – the developer realized that the involved communities would impose quality protections for citizens, businesses, the environment and the military, and
2 – the developer saw that there was very strong community (and thus legislative) support for those protections.
— 1 mile setbacks to property lines,
— 35 dBA turbine sound limits, at property lines, 24/7,
— a simple but powerful Property Value Guarantee,
— community controlled environmental tests,
— proper decommissioning funds and conditions, and
— an escrow account to pay for town expenses, maintained at $50k for the life of the project.
Probably the greatest frustration in my 35± years of environmental/energy work, is that when faced with such intrusions, that almost every community worldwide seems to basically try to reinvent the wheel.
I’m passing this on to you because I hope you can profit from our experiences. This was a community victory, and a superior example of what can be done elsewhere, when citizens work together in a constructive, productive way.
Consider this final thought: NC passed an RPS in 2007 mandating renewable (wind) energy. A half dozen major wind projects have been proposed since then. We have aggressively fought each of these, using AWED methodology — with no money. As of today there is not a single industrial wind turbine in the entire state.
Draw your own conclusions. See MUCH more at WiseEnergy.org.
john droz, jr.
physicist & environmental advocate
Morehead City, NC