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Moratorium Could Derail Two NC Wind Farm Projects

A bill seeks to protect air space for military exercises by prohibiting wind farms.
Paulo Valdivieso
Flickr Creative Commons

At least two wind farm developers say they will likely suspend their projects in North Carolina if a proposed moratorium goes into effect. 
State lawmakers passed a wide-ranging overhaul to environmental regulations last month. An 18-month moratorium on new wind farms was added to the bill late in the process.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown has tried to pass such a provision in the past. He and other supporters cite concerns about wind turbines interfering with nearby military installations. Brown has not gone into details about private conversations he says he has had with military personnel.

Others, like Katharine Kollins of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, argue developers are already required to get approval from the Department of Defense.

“A field of turbines can definitely interfere with various radar systems, but all of those systems are well known,” Kollins said. “They are all mapped by the military well ahead of time to determine what sort of interaction a wind farm is going to have with local radar systems.”

At least two developers say the moratorium would essentially derail major projects in Chowan and Tyrell Counties.

"This is an anti-business moratorium shrouded as a pro-military measure," said Mark Goodwin, CEO of Apex Clean Energy, which is developing the wind farm in Chowan County.

"In even the best circumstances, developing a wind project involves time and risk. An 18-month delay coupled with the near-certainty of additional red tape means we will almost certainly have to suspend Timbermill Wind if House Bill 589 becomes law," Goodwin said.

Governor Roy Cooper has until July 30th to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

Kollins said the moratorium would disproportionately hurt rural counties, where wind farms are often the largest taxpayer.

“Those counties don't have a lot of opportunity for new business, for growth and new tax revenues,” she said. “I believe that wind energy is probably one of the best opportunities available to those counties.”

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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