Thursday, July 19, 2007

Green Energy Contentious in NC Mountains

Does anyone remember the "windmills" (high profile, neat-looking, slender blade contraptions) going into Boone years ago? I thought they looked good and the wave of the future. They are gone now but I hope they come back. I personally would rather see clean wind power and solar panels rather than substations and supplemental generators in my view.

News on green energy disputes in the Winston-Salem Journal in a couple of recent stories. First, here's a bit of "Mountain Counties Show Resistance to Green Energy":

The mountain counties of Northwest North Carolina would probably generate a large part of the state’s renewable energy.

But residents in Ashe and Wilkes counties have already shown this year that reaching the proposed green-energy goals won’t come easily.

A proposal to build a wind farm on a ridge in Ashe County set off a storm of protest this year, with opponents saying that the giant turbines would ruin sweeping mountain vistas, killing tourism and housing markets. And a proposal to build a poultry-litter plant in a northwest county - Wilkes, Surry or Alexander - faces opposition.

It has the support of farmers, who want an alternative to spreading manure and bedding on fields, but environmentalists say that burning the litter would produce too much air pollution.

...Public outrage over Sugar Top, an Avery County resort on top of a mountain, led to the 1983 passage of North Carolina’s Ridge Law, which protects certain ridges from tall structures.

Among other issues, the Utilities Commission is looking at whether the ridge law bans large-scale wind turbines. Last month, Blowing Rock became the first local government to ban windmills. Town leaders said they support renewable energy but want to protect views and the town’s tourist-based economy.

Worth reading the article and also a partial update on the status is here in "Ashe Commissioners Adopt Wind-Energy Ordinance":

The Ashe County Board of Commissioners adopted a wind-energy ordinance yesterday that limits wind-turbine heights to 199 feet as measured to the tip of the turbine’s blade.

The new rules replace those that commissioners adopted in February as they hurried to get county-wide regulations in place before the first N.C. Utilities Commission hearing on a proposed commercial wind farm of 25 to 28 turbines in Creston.

The utilities commission’s hearings are scheduled in August, and the commissioners have been reviewing the ordinance.

The regulations are effective immediately because the commissioners voted unanimously on the matter. Their 5-0 vote followed a short public hearing.

The other major change reduces setback requirements for large wind-turbine systems from 1,700 feet to 1,000 feet from a property line. The change was made on the advice of an attorney hired by the county.He told commissioners that it was important to make the regulations consistent with
other county rules in case the issue is challenged in court.

Despite the reduced setback, about twelve members of a citizens group fighting the wind farm applauded commissioners when the rules were adopted.

Maria Whaley, a spokeswoman for Friends of Ashe County, said she was a little disappointed in the setback change, but she appreciates the process that commissioners have been through. Commissioners visited wind farms in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.She said she is pleased with the new height limits. “That was significant,” she said. “It went from basically unlimited to 199 feet.”

The 199-foot limit means that the turbines will not require aviation warning lights, as they would if a turbine were 200 feet or higher. Opponents of the project had objected to having flashing beacons in the night sky on ridge tops.

I think the height restrictions are reasonable and I hope to see non-obtrusive, fast turning, wind farms providing energy in our mountains. I lived in Wilkes and Ashe counties for some time and sitting here in Mitchell County I wish we had those initiatives and innovations under development here.

[Personal note: I have been away for many days traveling and getting needed things done but am happily back.]

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