Monday, August 10, 2009

The Politics of Energy #10 - N.C. Senate bill bans mountain wind farms

Editor's Note: Just as the wealthy citizens of Nantucket moved to ban 130 wind turbines in their sight line in Nantucket Sound, so now have the good politicians of North Carolina done the same with their mountain ridges. NIMBY is alive and well - and apparently politically correct.

Efforts to allow commercial windmill construction along N.C. mountain ridges have died in the State Senate.

Supporters hope to revive the issue in the State House. But with the legislature nearing the end of its session, it’s not clear there will be time for progress on the issue this year.

The N.C. Senate effort ended Wednesday. The Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee sent to the floor a bill that would ban commercial windmill development on high mountain ridges. It sets rules for wind development elsewhere in the state, including its coasts. And it allows small windmills for private use along the ridges.

Sen. Steve Goss, D-Watauga, proposed an amendment that would let mountain towns and counties adopt their own windmill regulations. He argued that the permits would be controlled locally and would create economic opportunity in the mountains. But it was overwhelmingly rejected on a voice vote.

Ridge law
Without development along the windy ridges of the high country, North Carolina becomes an unattractive location for wind projects, says George Everett, Duke Energy’s chief lobbyist in the General Assembly.

The bill that will go to the full Senate allows development in coastal areas of the state and on ridges below 3,000 feet in the mountains. Everett says that for commercial projects, the only area where windmills would be viable is on the high ridges.

The best coastal winds are off shore, and developing them would be expensive, he says. And below the high ridges the mountain winds are too inconsistent to be commercially attractive.

The state’s high ridges are protected the state’s 1983 Ridge Law. That law, a reaction to a high-rise condominium built on a peak on Little Sugar Mountain, prohibits tall structures on the ridgeline.

Since commercial windmills are generally 30 stories tall or more, they are prohibited. Goss’ amendment would have created an option for local governments to set their own rules to allow wind development.

Balance of article: Charlotte Business Journal

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