Report shows mid-Atlantic has high potential for wind energy

April 6, 2009 By Bruce Henderson

The breezes blowing across the shallow waters of the mid-Atlantic coast, including North Carolina, hold some of the nation's highest potential for harvesting wind energy, a new federal report says.

over waters less than 100 feet deep could supply at least 20 percent of the electricity needs of most coastal states, the Interior Department report says. Erecting in shallow water would be cheaper and easier than in deep water.

But allowing North Carolina's first commercial-scale wind turbines won't be a quick or easy decision.

That's a point Gov. Bev Perdue has continued to reinforce. She is slated to speak today at the Charlotte Energy Summit, an invitation-only conference about growing the region's energy industry sponsored by the Charlotte Chamber, Duke Energy and the Charlotte Regional Partnership. Many people won't like the look of turbines 300 feet tall, especially along the scenic coast. Birds and bats could strike the spinning blades. Residents will demand noise studies.

State legislators and some coastal counties are preparing standards for where to allow . The state's sounds, inside the Outer Banks, could be likely targets.

"We don't have a proposal yet, but in all the presentations I've seen, the (potential) facilities seem to be in shallow water," said Mike Lopazanski of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

The federal government has jurisdiction over waters more than 3 miles offshore. N.C. House and Senate bills introduced last month laid out rules for commercial wind farms inside that boundary.

The measures place 20 coastal counties under the control of the Coastal Resources Commission. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would oversee the rest of the state.

At least two coastal counties have adopted their own standards for where to allow turbines.

Currituck, in the state's far northeastern corner, adopted an ordinance last year that planning director Ben Woody considers wind farm-friendly.

"We've had interest," Woody said. "A lot of landowners in this county have been approached by wind-energy developers."

But as a practical matter, he said, the county's topography will limit the possibilities.

Legally protected wetlands cover about half of the area. And the county is especially protective of Currituck Sound, long famous for the waterfowl hunting that is still a vital source of income.

Farther out, the federal waters from North Carolina to Delaware hold 71 percent of the nation's shallow-water wind resources, the Interior report says.

It's unclear whether leasing for wind projects there will begin before 2015, according to the report. But it named North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland as areas of interest.

As the Obama administration directs new attention to renewable energy sources such as the wind, it's also mulling offshore oil and gas exploration.

Last week's report includes a proposal to sell three leases in the mid-Atlantic between 2010 and 2015. The report proposed one oil and gas lease off the southern Atlantic coast from South Carolina to mid-Florida.

The areas are the same as those proposed by the Bush administration in January.

Only one sale has a specific location, an area 50 miles off Virginia, just above the N.C. line. Five companies have expressed interest.

Public support for drilling and the sensitivity of the environment will factor into whether the proposals go forward.

Sixty percent of public comments received in recent months support expanded oil and gas exploration, the Interior report said, with support running as high as 86 percent in South Carolina and Georgia.

Perdue hasn't changed her position, said spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson.

"Anything off North Carolina should be looked at carefully by a team of scientists to make sure North Carolina's interests are protected," she said.


(c) 2009, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).
Visit The Charlotte Observer on the World Wide Web at
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Government blocks wind farm plans

Related Stories

Government blocks wind farm plans

June 1, 2006

The U.S. government has ordered work stopped on more than a dozen wind farms, saying the giant turbines might interfere with military radar.

Proposed Nantucket wind farm in jeopardy

April 8, 2006

A tentative U.S. Senate agreement could give Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the final say on the wind farm project proposed for Nantucket Sound.

New review delays Cape Cod wind farm

November 4, 2005

A new environmental review for a Cape Cod wind farm in Massachusetts will delay a final decision on the project about a year.

Wind power explored off California's coast

December 10, 2007

In many ways, wind energy seems an ideal energy source. Fields of mighty turbines spinning in rhythm could harness carbonless power and shuttle it off to homes and industries. But questions remain about the feasibility of ...

Recommended for you

New method analyzes corn kernel characteristics

November 17, 2017

An ear of corn averages about 800 kernels. A traditional field method to estimate the number of kernels on the ear is to manually count the number of rows and multiply by the number of kernels in one length of the ear. With ...

Optically tunable microwave antennas for 5G applications

November 16, 2017

Multiband tunable antennas are a critical part of many communication and radar systems. New research by engineers at the University of Bristol has shown significant advances in antennas by using optically induced plasmas ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2009
Convert Chrysler plants to wind turbine production plants. Automobile workers don't care what they're building, they just want full time employment.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2009
Good luck getting these wind turbines built. Wealthy and politically connected (but I repeat myself) NIMBY coastal land owners will fight it to prevent having to see anything but water and boats in their scenic views. Just ask Teddy Kennedy, who strongly supports alternate energy... as long as it doesn't mess up his summer view. Apparently having to see industry is only for the little people.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.