Time for North Carolina to Support Wind Power

Credit: Chrishna, Flickr Creative Commons

Wind turbine technology has advanced significantly in the past few years, enabling wind farms to sprout up in new areas, particularly in the Southeast. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in harnessing more electricity and reducing costs. Even as new wind development promises sustainable economic development in rural counties, in some cases new wind farm proposals are being met with hostility and resistance. North Carolina is a recent example of new turbine technology creating opportunities and opposition, as anti-wind activists use confusion and misinformation to press for wind farm bans that are disguised as regulation.

In 2011, several new wind farms were proposed in northeastern North Carolina, amounting up to several hundred megawatts of wind power capacity potential. Private property owners exercising their private property rights and hosting wind turbines could expect about $6,000 per wind turbine via land-owner lease payments. Each project could result in hundreds of thousands of new county tax revenue, with little to no cost to the local communities.

Prior to the various wind farm announcements, county officials in northeastern North Carolina adopted reasonable wind turbine siting regulations that were created by the North Carolina wind working group, a diverse group of stakeholders from across regulatory, industry, legal, academic and environmental fields. But now, Perquimans County is entertaining proposals by anti-wind energy activists that, if implemented, would effectively kill wind farm development in their county and potentially have a chilling effect on the prospects for development in eastern North Carolina.

Anti-Wind Farm Activists Have a Secret Agenda: To Disguise Wind Bans as Regulation

The American wind industry has become widely popular with Republicans and Democrats alike — polling shows that 82% of North Carolinians support this clean, domestic source of renewable energy. In Kansas, where significant wind development has taken place, some 91% of voters believe that “Using renewable energy is the right thing to do for the future of our state and our country.”

Anti-wind farm activists know that if they head to a county commission meeting and demand to completely eliminate wind farm development, that their opinion would be in stark contrast to the vast majority of Americans. To conceal their disdain for renewable energy, anti-wind activists will propose regulation that, in effect, would prohibit wind energy. Their intention is to regulate wind energy right out of existence. Listed below are a few items on anti-wind activists’ lists of demands in North Carolina.

1) Setbacks

Perquimans County’s current wind energy ordinance requires that wind turbines be set back 2.5 times a turbine’s height away from occupied buildings or residences and wind turbines may not exceed 600 feet tall. Anti-wind energy activists in North Carolina have demanded that wind turbines be no closer than 5,280 feet (1 mile) or further than 17 football fields away. Anti-wind energy activists know that even if they “compromise” and succeed with a ½ mile setback, landowners would need more than 500 acres of land before hosting a wind turbine on their own private property. Alternatively, coal-fired power plants and highly toxic coal-ash ponds are frequently located closer than 1/4-1/2 mile away from residences. For example the Marshall coal-fired power plant near Lake Norman has a coal-ash pond less than 550 feet away from a home.

2) Decibel Limitations

Credit: General Electric, "How Loud is a Wind Turbine?"

Perquimans County’s current wind energy ordinance requires that wind turbines be no louder than 55 decibels as measured at any occupied building of a non-participating landowner. The Environmental Protection Agency developed guidelines regarding sound limits to protect public health and 55 decibels is recommended for outdoor sound levels. When anti-wind energy activists demanded a 35 decibel sound limit for wind turbines in neighboring Chowan County, the demand was soundly dismissed as “preposterous”. A 35 decibel sound limit, if applied evenly to all sound-causing activities, would ban other background sounds such as speech, refrigerators, dishwashers, crickets, birds, rainfall, cars, boats, aircrafts flying overhead, and even the wind itself. Even if anti-wind activists “compromise” at 45 decibels, background wind sound can exceed that limit – sound levels of winds at approximately 7 miles per hour are rated at about 36 decibels and wind speeds of 26 miles per hour can clock in at about 54 decibels.

3) Shadow Flicker Restrictions

Shadow flicker occurs when sunlight is blocked intermittently. Perquimans County’s current wind energy ordinance requires that wind turbines cause no more than 30 hours of shadow flicker in a year at any occupied building of a non-participating landowner. According to a peer-reviewed scientific journal study, a study of 60 scientific peer-reviewed articles, shadow flicker is “not likely to affect human health” and is regarded more as an annoyance. If you’ve ever driven down a tree-lined road in the afternoon, you’ve received a dose of shadow flicker as trees shade the roadway.

4) Decommissioning Mandates

Perquimans County’s current wind energy ordinance requires that if a wind turbine is inoperable for a continuous 12 months, it must be decommissioned within 12 months. Wind turbine decommissioning is required by the already-existing regulations.

5) Property Value Guarantees 

Multiple studies have shown that wind farms do not negatively affect property values. However, anti-wind activists make claims that property values are affected and frequently demand contractually-binding “property value guarantees”. If wind farms pose virtually no risk to property values, why are property value guarantees a problem? If you do a basic search, it’s fairly clear that wind energy are virtually the only industry targeted for property value guarantee demands. Given that property can be devalued for a number of reasons, wind farm companies could be held liable for property devaluation that is wholly unrelated to nearby wind farms. For example, if an industrial chicken operation is constructed, or the real estate market takes a hit, or unsultry neighbors move in, or even the homes’ physical appearance falls out of fashion, property values could suffer. Requiring new development to provide property value guarantees would set a bad precedent. If a resident or group of residents become opposed to new businesses, new construction, or even a neighbor’s homeowner renovation, requiring property value guarantees would have a chilling effect on local economies and would raise hostilities within the community.

Regulation or Discrimination?

Listed above are just a few examples of how anti-wind energy activists propose regulation that are effectively wind farm bans in disguise. Perquimans County, and several other counties in North Carolina, took the time to develop reasonable regulations that would not only protect land owners that are not hosting wind turbines on their property, but also protect the property rights of the land owners that want to host wind turbines.  If a county commission is unwilling to pass the exact same regulations for all energy industries or other forms of new development, an alternative agenda is at play, and communities will lose out on an opportunity to participate in the clean energy economy of the 21st century.

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[...] • How opponents seek to prohibit wind farm development through regulation. (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy) • Renewable energy in North Carolina "is a gold mine that [...]

Pingback by Southern states fare poorly on solar scorecard | Southeast Energy News on January 27, 2016 8:33 am

This article, at best, is misleading. These folks in Perquimans who are speaking against wind energy are not “activist” they are family, friends & neighbors that never had a voice or fair input in the discussion from the beginning. This wind project was started in secret without consideration from the people who live here. We want a say in our community where our families have lived in for generations. This is our home. Second, the host land owners do not have property rights that would be taken away. That is flat false! The purpose of the conditional use process requires approval by our ELECTED county commissioners. They are elected to represent the people in the county. They are not elected to see if it meets the ordinance design reqirements – that authority/responsibility is for the planning board. So, nothing guarantees them the ability to build industrial wind energy facilities any more than it allows them to build a topless bar. Third, nuisances and disturbances are indeed valid reason to reject wind energy. These are not a fit for our community. What you are suggesting in this article is that democracy should be sacrificed for a fad/movement that is not wanted by the community in which you are forcing them on.

Comment by Stokely on January 27, 2016 5:15 pm

We are not wrong in wanting stronger wind turbine regulations in Perquimans County. If there will be no loss in property values near the wind turbines the companies should have no problem signing off on it.
A county in eastern N C has a good ordinance to that effect. In the second proposed wind turbine project no resident of Perquimans County has signed a lease with Apex. If the residence could live with a half mile setback from property lines that is not a enough for safety.
Some of the maintenance manuals for the the large turbines say they are dangerous over 3000 feet. A decommissioning bond should be put in place because the developers are LLC’s the will sell off the projects to other LLC’s with no assets. The county should not be responsible for the decommissioning. The shadow flicker and the noise are big issues with the proposed project a little over one mile from two schools in Perquimans County.
Bottom line do not lie to me. I was contacted many times by a developer concerning signing a lease that turbines could be placed on my property. I was told that they did not know where they might erect the turbines. On their FAA citing plan filed in April 2014 the developer had three on my property.
We are not poor,uneducated, bib overall farmers that will be run over by someone. We are proud educated business owners with homes, businesses, and farmland that want it the way it is.
We are not the ones that want to keep businesses that are compatible with the area from coming to the county. Ask questions about B & S the local tractor dealership why they moved out of the county. How many jobs would they have brought and how much in tax revenue?
The county manager ran them away.
Use a little common sense. Finish one wind turbine project before starting a second in the same county. There may be things that need to be fixed in number two that the people that went forward in number one were not smart enough to reconize.
Another thing the developers say Perquimans County has the land and wind that can make the project work, if that is true why do they need tax breaks? The developers should be paying premiums in taxes.
The biggest wind turbine in the world will not keep a 60 watt bulb lighted 24 hours a day 7 days week for a year. The coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants will all have to stay at 100 % of their production.
Nothing that is about 20% efficient is destroying our county.

Comment by Tommy Harrell on January 27, 2016 10:04 pm

The developers coming to Perquimans County came to be from a meeting in Chicago . An attorney from Raleigh met a developer from one of the companies interested in Perquimans County telling him that in his travels to the Outer Banks he saw areas in poor northeastern NC that had big tracts that might be developed.
Then hear they came in secret. Telling anyone that signed a lease that it was confidential. That being said they could not share it with their neighbors.
Only a few knew they were coming and they stood to benefit.
Those that are asking for a stronger ordinance are the citizens that live in the area surrounding and within the project area.

Comment by Tommy Harrell on January 27, 2016 10:46 pm

Wind farms are popping up all over the country, and people love them. Our region is literally the last one to build wind farms, so it’s understandable that folks may not be familiar with them. But all the arguments listed above have been answered by so many other communities all across the country, and yet, wind farms are still going up. They’re good for communities and represent the future.

Comment by Simon Mahan on January 28, 2016 1:56 pm

Simon Mahan. I think you are an intelligent person. You know each community is different. These are not suitable for our community. Let democracy be democracy. Let us choose what we desire as an energy source. Wind does not fit in this community.

Comment by Stokely on January 28, 2016 3:21 pm

Perquimans County is free to decide what is built and what is not built. But you’ll miss a giant opportunity. The property taxes paid by the wind farms could mean new schools, roads, firehouses, libraries, etc. Or local government could reduce property taxes paid for by farmers, businesses and homeowners.

What types of power plants would you support being built in Perquimans County?

Comment by Simon Mahan on January 28, 2016 3:36 pm

The tax revenue from the already approved industrial wind farm is plenty. Besides, we have the lowest tax rate already in our area. One punch in the gut is enough. We don’t want this in another community.

Comment by Stokely on January 28, 2016 4:52 pm

To answer your other question: Solar power already has some support in the area. Even though they are somewhat visually obtrusive, they don’t make noise, don’t produce night time light pollution, there is less risk of falling & fire, and they are not 600 foot tall. They are much smaller in scale and tend to be able to be sited on farmland instead of Weyerhaeuser timberland. They also support the community more by using local surveying companies and hiring local people for administrative work. Wind power would be supported by much more people in the area if it involved the community more and was not so industrial in scale. Smaller turbines that served individual homes – you know, something that supports our low consumption community instead of feeding the gluttonous consuming city dwelling types – would be more palatable. We enjoy our cacophony of crickets, frogs, owls, and other wildlife sounds that are too frequently disappearing into the development of asphalt and concrete of urban life. We do not want the never ending “whoosh” of a device we cannot turn off on spring and summer nights. We enjoy the fact we do not have very much light pollution in our sky that allows us to lie in the beds of our trucks to watch falling stars and the beautiful starlit sky. – Call me crazy – We don’t want the things the urban life provides, we see our wealth in our families and relationships in the community. We are already building a new library – the existing one we have is already adequately sized and able to support the entire county – yet, foolishly, we are planning to build a new one. That is what is wrong with the urban mindset – it is wasteful & unnecessary. This new “green energy” will not shut down one coal or nuclear fired plant – they still have to run as a backup source. It’s wasteful, not green and not a fit for our community.

Comment by Stokely on January 29, 2016 9:05 am

I see you’re also opposed to your new library. Sorry to hear about that.

Wind turbine don’t urbanize landscapes. Farms and agriculture peacefully co-exist with wind farms.

Small turbines are great, but to access high-quality winds, turbines need to be tall.

You can still hear all the wonderful wildlife around you, even with wind turbines.

Iowa gets >25% of its electricity from wind farms. That’s electricity that would have been generated by coal, gas or nuclear power had the wind farms not been there. But even fossil fuel power plants need backup – that’s how the electrical system works. http://www.ewea.org/blog/2013/06/wind-farms-dont-need-fossil-fuel-back-up/

Comment by Simon Mahan on January 29, 2016 11:55 am

If we had no library, I would be ALL for it. But we already have one. Your mindset is just wasteful. And, no the soundscape is not the same. I have visited these in WV, you can’t lie to me on this. Farms will NOT peacefully co-exist with industrial wind facilities (they are not wind farms) in this area – 95% of the farmers are against them. Why do everyone of you guys keep giving links to ewea? That’s like me giving links to the NRA to gun control advocates. Makes no sense and puts an exclamation point that you are out of touch with anyone who doesn’t agree with your mindset. You want to be diverse and inclusive, but don’t want to understand cultures you don’t agree with or listen to opposing opinions.

Comment by Stokely on January 29, 2016 12:28 pm

I’ve visited dozens of wind farms and you can always hear other sound nearby – wildlife, cars, the wind going through trees, even overhead aircraft. I’ve even been to a few wind farms in West Virginia, too.



You’re attacking my citation, but you’ve provided none of your own. The article I provided was simply an explanation of how the electric grid system works. It’d make no technical or economic sense for a coal plant to operate a 100% output 24/7 when you can get wind power – the power lines aren’t designed to hold excess power like that in any fashion and it’d result in blackouts. Iowa and all other states with wind power back off the most expensive power sources when wind power is available. If you’d like, here’s more than a dozen other citations explaining how the electricity grid works and how wind farms do not need full power “backup” power on standby all the time.















Comment by Simon Mahan on January 29, 2016 2:01 pm

[...] As already established from expert, scientific study, reasonable and relatively safe setback regulation not only protects the public, but also allows sensible wind farm development.  Anti-wind activists have begun demanding setbacks of 1-mile from property lines or occupied buildings for wind turbines, or more. That way if their 1-mile demand is “compromised” to 1/2 mile (or 2,640 feet) through the political process, they can still wreak havoc on a wind farm project. To put that in perspective, a landowner would need more than 500 acres of land before he/she could host one single wind turbine. That would effectively ban wind energy development on 85% of the nation’s farms and likely higher, since the remaining 15% do not always have the best wind resources. Not bad for the anti-wind farm activists that decide to “compromise” on a 1/2 mile setback. Mandating a 1/2 mile setback for wind turbines is clearly an effort to eliminate wind farm developme… [...]

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