Relocation of turbines may sway militaryPublished 9:29pm Friday, February 15, 2013
A meeting between Beaufort County and U.S. Department of Defense officials held in Washington, D.C., this week brought news that a military go-ahead for the proposed Invenergy wind turbine project could be in Beaufort County’s future.
Commissioners Hood Richardson and Ed Booth, along with County Manager Randell Woodruff and lobbyist Joe McClees, met with DOD Clearinghouse representative Frank DiGiovianni on Tuesday to make the case for the project, which is under review by the agency.
The proposed project has come under intense military scrutiny because of its close proximity to an important flight path: the daily bombing runs performed by low-flying jets from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro to the Dare County Bombing Range. The wind farm would be located on 11,000 acres near Terra Ceia and Pantego.
Woodruff said the concern revolves around the 500-foot-tall turbines, with 164-foot blades spinning at 100 mph, impeding jets approaching the bombing range at an altitude of 500 feet. That concern led outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue to issue an Aug. 18, 2012, executive order directing state authorities to prevent land use that interferes with military training, missions or installations, and strongly encourages local governments to address compatibility of their own land use plans with military operations.
Woodruff said that Chicago-based Invenergy is working with DOD to mitigate the problem, discussing concerns and possible relocation of some turbines so that they won’t impact flight paths.
The project has the potential to benefit Beaufort County with annual revenue exceeding $1 million in taxes and lease payments to the county and local landowners, Woodruff wrote in a press release.
He explained that would mean roughly $800,000 a year in taxes paid to the county, the remainder going to lease payments.
The project has drawn criticism from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well. An estimate issued by the agency last June indicated four to 20 bald eagles could be killed each year by the spinning blades of the turbines. More impact studies on local wildlife are under way.
The press release states that the county fully supports the effort to adjust the project location to allow it to move forward. DOD Clearinghouse officials will continue to review the project over the next few months.