Military Has Issue with Wind Farm Proposals

CAMDEN COUNTY, N.C. -- Proposals for wind farms in Beaufort and Camden counties are running into military resistance.

A 49-turbine project on 11,000 acres planned for Pantego in Beaufort County will not be "advanced in its current form," said Invenergy vice president Bryan Schueler in a letter last week to state and federal elected officials.

Jets fly training routes at about 500 feet over the wind farm's planned location on their way to the Dare County Bombing Range. The wind turbines would stand about 500 feet tall.

"In response to these concerns, Invenergy conducted a thorough reconsideration of the Pantego site..." Schueler said.

The jet training route is the only one of its kind in the nation and allows the F-15E Strike Eagle of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to fly at low altitudes, according to a resolution passed by the Goldsboro City Council protesting the wind farm construction.

Goldsboro depends on the jobs and economy generated by the nearby base. Air Force officials did not respond to requests for information.

The Pantego site had already faced opposition from federal wildlife officials over the potential that wind turbines could kill bald eagles and migrating snow geese.

Another Invenergy project of up to 79 turbines planned for Hales Lake, a farming area of more than 10,000 acres in northern Camden County, could disrupt a radar system at the Hampton Roads Naval Support Activity, Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, said Navy spokeswoman Katisha Draughn-Fraguada.

Invenergy is negotiating options with the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and with Coast Guard and Navy officials, according to a statement from the company.

At Northwest Annex, an over-the-horizon radar system covers about five million square nautical miles of the Caribbean and South and Central America. A study last year showed the system needed a buffer of about 28 miles from a large wind turbine site. The radar is less than 10 miles from where the turbines would be.

The wind farm would have a "negative impact" on the radar, but Department of Defense officials plan to see if there is a way to lessen the effect, Draughn-Fraguada said.

The Camden site also could interfere with the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City, which plans to upgrade its north-south runway.

Local officials in Camden and Beaufort counties passed ordinances allowing for large-scale wind turbines in hopes of attracting the projects to an industry-poor region.

They promised power for thousands of homes and between 10 to 20 good-paying permanent jobs. None have power purchasing contracts with utility companies.

In 2007, North Carolina passed laws calling for 12.5 percent of the energy used in the state to come from renewable resources by 2025. Alternative energy companies looked to the large, open farm fields of eastern North Carolina as possible sites.

The proposed wind farms in Camden and Beaufort counties would be among the largest on the East Coast, said Chris Namovicz, senior renewable energy analyst for the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Most other eastern wind farms are much smaller and located in mountainous areas, he said.

The largest wind farms are in Texas, California and Indiana.

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