US South getting its first big wind farm soon

July 12, 2015 byJason Dearen
The Shepherds Flat Wind Farm is an 845 MW wind farm in the U.S. state of Oregon. Credit: Steve Wilson / Wikipedia.

On a vast tract of old North Carolina farmland, crews are getting ready to build something the U.S. South has never seen: a commercial-scale wind energy farm.

The $600 million project by the Spanish firm Iberdrola Renewables LLC will put 102 turbines on 22,000 acres (8,900 hectares) near the coastal community of Elizabeth City, with plans to add about 50 more. Once up and running, it could generate about 204 megawatts, or enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes.

It would be the first large onshore wind farm in a region with light, fluctuating winds that has long been a dead zone for .

After a years-long regulatory process that once appeared to have doomed the plan, Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman told The Associated Press that construction is to begin in about a month.

Right now, there's not a spark of electricity generated from wind in nine states across the Southeast from Arkansas to Florida, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group.

But taller towers and bigger turbines are unlocking new potential in the South, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and the industry is already looking to invest.

And with the electricity system in the region undergoing a period of change as coal plants are phased out, some experts believe the door is open for renewables like wind.

Federal energy researchers have found stronger winds at higher elevations that can be tapped by new towers and bigger rotor blades. New federal maps of onshore wind flows at higher elevations than were previously available indicate that this new technology significantly increases the areas that wind can thrive, especially in the Southeast.

"If you go higher, the wind is better," said Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the Department of Energy. "The question is how you get there responsibly and economically."

The average tower height now in the U.S. is about 260 feet (79 meters); the allows turbines to mine air at 460 feet (140 meters).

The project in North Carolina was not viable just a decade ago, company officials said. But the new, larger turbines unlocked the area's potential.

Wind farms in 36 states already generate about 5 percent of U.S. energy—low compared to other countries like Denmark (28 percent), Portugal, Spain and Ireland (16 percent each). South Dakota and Iowa already derive about 20 percent of their electric energy from wind, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The Energy Department believes the U.S. can generate 20 percent of the country's power with wind by 2030, and opening up the Southeast and other new areas is a key to achieving that goal.

There are hurdles: Utilities in most Southern states have not invested heavily in . Also, only North Carolina has adopted a state law mandating utilities to increase their renewable energy portfolios.

But other factors are already forcing change in the region's energy market. Abundant natural gas, coal being phased out and aging nuclear plants are creating a potentially robust market for wind power as utilities seek the next best investment to add to their energy mixes, said Jonas Monast of Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Still, without state renewable mandates like North Carolina's, the growth could be slow going, experts said.

Another issue facing in the Southeast is protecting the region's birds and bats.

The danger of wind turbines to birds like rare golden eagles and bats has plagued or derailed major projects in the West. Avian research is now factored into decisions on where to put wind farms, and can make or break a project.

Because no farms exist anywhere in the South, little research has been done on the issue. Researchers and developers will have to catch up.

Explore further: Localized wind power blowing more near homes, farms and factories

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not rated yet Jul 12, 2015
Put them on Mountains.
4 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2015
This is great. I live in NC and there is literally Nothing going on in coastal/eastern NC, so this Wind Farm will give people something to do. And there is really nothing to look at, so there are no scenic landscapes that will be ruined, either. It will be like a mini-tourist attraction for the area, seriously.

I hope they don't put turbines in the mountains, because that would ruin the wonderful views, in that one location anyway.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2015
I hope they don't put turbines in the mountains, because that would ruin the wonderful views, in that one location anyway.
well said
1 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2015
They could also put a stinking coal-burner there, if the people would stand for it. But the days of James Watt are long gone.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2015
I hope they don't put turbines in the mountains, because that would ruin the wonderful views,

Mountains might not be the best idea in any case as the wind tends to be all over the place, not easily predictable, and rather gusty (which can damage the blades).

There are some studies that suggest that hilly country is underused/undervalued, though, when it comes to wind farms - as most simulation software does not take ground effects into account.
1 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2015
It is too late to stop our march to progress. From Bloomberg Business:
Coal is an industry in terminal decline, and financial markets are reflecting this new reality. "Drastic new energy policies are still needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to nearly every credible analysis. But even setting aside the environmental and health issues, renewables are on a trajectory to outcompete fossil fuels, starting with coal. Between now and 2040, two-thirds of the money spent on adding new electricity capacity worldwide will be spent on renewables, according to BNEF.

In the past year, global stock prices for coal companies are down almost 50 percent, but it's in the bond market that coal is really getting hammered. The focus of energy finance has shifted from coal to renewables, and it's not likely to turn back."
1 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2015
Good news, coal-lovers. Dynergy is interested in buying coal plants from AEP in Ohio! Yup, their CEO said " the company is looking to exit the California market, where the renewables-heavy state does not appear to value coal."

Breathe deeply, midwesterners.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2015
Breathe deeply, midwesterners.
But do not breathe so much, because CO2 is a metabolic byproduct of the respiration process, and according to environmentalists, it is environmentally harmful/toxic.
1.8 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2015
Oh, no, Willie, I want you to get the full benefit of those particulates which lodge in your lungs, the radionuclides in the gases, and all that climate-killing CO2! Take a DEEEEEEP breath, so you get it all.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2015
There are some studies that suggest that hilly country is underused/undervalued, though, when it comes to wind farms
you know, i was actually wondering about air traffic control...
3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2015
"It said the wind farm would have been constructed close to an area of wild land."
"As someone who grew up in Caithness, I am delighted for the local community which campaigned strongly to prevent the unique character of this landscape."
"Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has refused to give consent for a 24-turbine wind farm near Reay in Caithness."
2 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
The United States has enough available Wind Power that if we captured it with reasonable turbine technology we could power all residential and industrial needs and still have energy left-over to sell to Mexico and Canada.

This isn't done because of two basic reasons:

1) the "NIMBY" attitude of home owners. "I don't want a lawn ornament" bullcrap.

2) Radical environmentalists who claim the turbines hurt a significant number of birds and bats, when the amount hurt by turbines is less than 1000th the amount hurt by ordinary house cats.

oh yeah, another reason:

3) "Free Market" concept forbids the government from owning the infrastructure directly, which means it must be placed in the hands of corrupt corporations who pay CEOs and a few top stock share holders 100 million per year...vs government overseers who would make only 90k per year. The government run energy company concept is much more efficient.

This is the stupidity of the U.S. and "Free Market" capitalism.
1 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
You foolish citizens.

You would rather line the pockets of corrupt billionaires, WHOM YOU HAVE NO ELECTIVE POWER OVER, with the fruits of your labors, rather than have direct government control over the energy infrastructure, which has an implied salary cap for each position in a government controlled business, AND you have elective power over at least some of the politicians, if not appointees directly.

Given a choice between the two scenarios, I would rather a government owned energy company. It is provably economically more efficient, particularly in the area of wages, salaries, and taxes.

"Free Markets" are not "free". They in fact lead to defacto slavery.

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