Another wind farm in pipeline for Eastern N.C.

jmurawski@newsobserver.comApril 14, 2012 


Two major wind farms have been approved in this state but are not ready for construction, raising questions whether a large-scale turbine will ever get built in eastern North Carolina.

Now a third large wind farm project is in the pipeline, indicating persistent interest in wind development in this state despite longstanding frustrations and obstacles.

Wind Capital Group, formed in 2005 and based in Missouri, is planning a wind farm up to 150 megawatts in Pamlico County. The company has made presentations to local residents and county commissioners this year but is still months away from filing for approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission.

The St. Louis company, which has built or is developing nearly a dozen wind farms nationwide, is considering 20,000 acres in Pamlico County for its project. Wind Capital is testing wind speeds in the area and conducting environmental studies. It is negotiating deals to pay local farmers at least $10,000 a year to host each turbine in a project that would generate enough electricity for 30,000 to 40,000 homes.

Wind Capital’s Bay River Wind project would have between 55 and 94 turbines, depending on the size and power of the towers and blades that soar 500 feet into the sky to take advantage of powerful air currents.

“We do see there’s market interest,” said Neil Jones, Wind Capital’s director of project development. “We feel like it’s going to be a matter of when, not if.”

The same optimism was expressed by the developers of the proposed 80-megwatt Pantego wind farm in Beaufort County and the proposed 300-megawatt Desert Wind Energy project in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. Neither project has been able to sign a contract to sell its power output to an electric utility. The Pantego project is also tied up in concerns over potential bird kills of tundra swans and other migratory birds that roost at the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge when visiting the state for the winter.

The Bay River Wind project would be south of the previously proposed wind farms and wouldn’t seek approval from the state utilities commission until late this year at the earliest, said Jones, who is a Pamlico native. That means there’s no public record of the project on file outside the materials presented to the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners last month.

Those materials say the project will cost up to $300 million and will create up to 300 jobs during construction. Running the turbine complex will require seven to 12 people.

The company submitted data culled from studies showing that buildings, cars and cats kill tens of millions of birds a year, a fraction of avian mortality rate caused by whirling wind turbines.

North Carolina’s utilities are considering buying power from wind farms because state law requires them to rely on an increasing percentage of alternative energy.

Wind farms would be boosted by several financial incentives, primarily a federal production tax credit that could cover between $50 million and $100 million of Bay River Wind’s costs over a decade. North Carolina offers a state tax credit up to $2.5 million and the utilities would pay these projects for “renewable energy certificates” to meet their state mandates for clean energy.

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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