An 18-month moratorium on new wind energy farms in North Carolina ended Dec. 31. But a bill introduced in the state Senate Wednesday would ban new projects in all or part of two dozen eastern North Carolina counties. Renewable energy advocates say the bill would hurt economic development.
State Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow County) says the "Military Base Protection Act" is aimed at protecting pilots on training flights and preventing base closings. It would ban new wind energy projects in counties deemed a "significant risk" in a study for the state Department of Commerce. That includes an area from the Virginia border in northeastern North Carolina to Onslow County in the southeast.
“We shouldn’t take any action that jeopardizes the United States military’s ability to safely train the brave men and women who serve our country,” Brown said in a press release. “Beyond that, though, the military is the lifeblood of eastern North Carolina’s economy. It supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. Constructing obstacles that degrade the military’s ability to conduct training exercises puts our military bases at risk of closure during the next BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure] proceeding.”
The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association doesn't like the bill. Executive Director Ivan Urlaub said in a statement: “NCSEA is disappointed in this latest attempt to stifle economic development in eastern North Carolina, and we oppose any unsupported and unnecessary restrictions on clean energy opportunities in our state."
He said the ban isn't needed. "The state already has one of the nation’s most stringent permitting policies, which is reinforced by a strong Department of Defense process that has proven to work effectively time and time again,” Urlaub said.
Two other Republican senators co-sponsored the bill: Paul Newton, who represents Cabarrus and Union counties, and Norman Sanderson, who represents Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties.
The bill affects only new applications. The state's first utility-scale farm is in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, near Elizabeth City. It's operated by Avangrid and sells power to online retailer Amazon.
Senate Bill 377 at NCLeg.net
Map: "Vertical Obstruction Impact on the N.C. Military Mission," on the state Commerce Department website.
N.C. Sustainable Energy Association response, EnergyNC.org