North Carolina Windfarms Receiving Blowback

Published July 21, 2016

North Carolina, home to three military airbases, is emerging as a major battleground in the ongoing war over wind farms.

On June 20, the North Carolina Senate passed the Military Operations Protection Act of 2016 (MOPA), which prohibits wind turbines from being built in military flight paths. MOPA would make much of the state off-limits to wind farms.

Commenting on the bill in an e-mail to the Winston-Salem Journal, Brown wrote, “The intent of this bill is a common-sense effort to ensure the training and low-level flight routes around the installations aren’t compromised by tall structures, including wind turbines, that could interfere with already established training routes and patterns.”

If the bill becomes law, it would likely end the $300 million Timbermill Wind energy project, currently being developed by Apex Clean Energy, in Perquimans and Chowan Counties. The Timbermill project would erect 105 wind turbines, some up to 600 feet in height, in the two counties. If MOPA becomes law, it would disqualify about half the 45 turbines proposed for Chowan County and approximately 20 percent of the entire project in both counties. Apex Clean Energy says this would render the project financially unfeasible.

‘A Lot of Reasons to Be Critical’

Don Carrington, vice president of the John Locke Foundation, says while the Obama administration is pushing the military to be more ecologically friendly and run on green energy, base commanders are concerned wind towers built near airbases could negatively impact operations.

“The U.S. Navy is concerned a massive wind farm near Elizabeth City will disrupt a sophisticated radar station located near the Virginia-North Carolina border,” said Carrington. “Radar is an important tool in illegal-drug-traffic interdiction efforts.

“There are a lot of reasons to be critical of windmill farms besides military-base closures, though,” Carrington said. “These types of projects are typically oversold, never producing the amount of power their backers’ claim, even when they’re running at peak capacity.

“Then there’s the problem of corporate subsidies; most people are against corporate welfare,” Carrington said.

Carrington says commercial wind projects rely on federal subsidies and state renewable-energy mandates to create a demand for the electricity produced by their wind farms.

“Without subsidies, wind farms would be too expensive to build and operate,” Carrington said. 

Growing Backlash Against Wind Power

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says the North Carolina Senate’s vote to limit wind energy development is just one example of the growing backlash against wind-energy development.

“From Maine to California, dozens of governmental entities are moving to reject or restrict wind projects,” Bryce said.

“Rural residents are increasingly rejecting so-called ‘green’ energy because homeowners don’t want to deal with the noise, property-value depreciation, and visual blight that accompanies modern wind-energy projects,” said Bryce.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.