Could windmills drive more discussion?

Published 3:09 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2007

By Staff
If the idea of generating electricity from wind power is sparking interest in Camden County, one has to wonder just when the same thing will happen down south here in the Inner Banks.
The question is: Do we face the issue now or wait until somebody actually starts building one next door?
Camden County Planning Director Dan Porter had no policy on the books when he got the first application for a windmill to generate electricity. He’s in the process of drawing up some guidelines now.
Beaufort County is in the same boat, says County Manager Paul Spruill.
The entrepreneur wanted the county to partner with the person on a plan to develop a commercial wind generation station on Indian Island. The body of land, about 5 acres in size, is in the Pamlico River near the mouth of South Creek. The county board did not vote to proceed with the partnership.
The wind-driven power generation system works when a breeze turns a propeller, which in turn drives a generator. The power can be stored in on-site batteries for later use or sold back to a local electric company. When the wind isn’t blowing, homeowners can either use the power they’ve stored in the batteries or rely on the electric company. The actual towers could range in height from 65 to 100 feet.
There are places where wind generation works and some places it doesn’t. It won’t work in Raleigh, but it could work in some parts of Beaufort, Hyde and Washington counties, according to Brent Summerville, project manager for a wind project at Appalachian State University. His group has developed maps that show the wind potential on a scale of one through six, with six being the best.
Beaufort County has areas ranked number two and a few areas nearest the Pamlico River that are ranked class three.
But most of Camden County, where interest has been shown, is rated as a one or a one-plus.
Wind power could be one of the things Beaufort County addresses in upcoming discussions on height restrictions.
The local planning board is scheduled to start the height restriction discussion on Aug. 3.
Summerville views the local situation as a chance to be proactive.
In the end, economics may be the biggest factor. With a home generation system costing $10,000 to $50,000, the fiscal reality can overshadow the rosy picture of a life without an electric bill.