Published on July 3rd, 2017 | by Tina Casey0
Small Group Of North Carolina Republicans Cut Off Wind Energy Nose To Spite Face
July 3rd, 2017 by Tina Casey
There they go again. Leveraging the issue of wind turbine interference with operations at military bases in North Carolina, several Senate Republicans in the state are pushing a bill that would slap a moratorium on wind energy development. Similar legislation was previously rebuffed even by members of their own party, but just last week they went at it all over again.
The question is, will they succeed this time?
Photo: “…soldiers prepare to hook up an M119A2 105 mm howitzer during air assault training at Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 8, 2013” (DoD photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod, U.S. Army) via flickr.com.
Wind Energy in North Carolina: There They Go Again
The anti-wind push is doubly ironic in North Carolina. As a coastal state rimmed with sensitive barrier islands and home to the largest military base in the world (Fort Bragg, for those of you keeping score at home), North Carolina is has a significant interest in assisting the global decarbonization effort.
Nevertheless, some Republican legislators are determined to stop wind energy development, even at the expense of fraying relations within their own party.
The latest wind energy news has once again pitted Republican against Republican. As reported locally by The Daily Advance, last week the Senate passed House Bill 589 with an amendment placing a moratorium on wind energy development.
That could effectively kill off several major wind farm projects currently working their way through the pipeline, though it would not affect Amazon’s new 104-turbine farm. That 22,000 acre behemoth began operating last February despite a last minute attempt to shut it down.
The amendment to House Bill 589 is just the latest in several attempts by Republican senators to stymie wind energy development in the state.
One of the amendment’s chief backers was Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown. He attempted similar legislation in 2016, citing impacts on military bases in North Carolina. Last week he played the military card again:
As he has argued in the past, Brown claimed in published reports the state needs time to study wind projects’ potential impact on military operations, such as whether they’d interfere with flight paths. Otherwise the state risks military readiness and the state’s second largest “industry,” Brown told The Associated Press.
Senator Brown also previously argued against the Amazon farm, citing concerns over US Navy radar operations.
However, his concerns have not been borne out yet. The Amazon farm does not appear to have caused any problems and if it does, that would come as a surprise to the Navy. Back in January a Navy spokesperson told the Associated Press that “it had extensively studied the potential for interference with its Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar, or ROHTR, system just across the state line in Chesapeake, Virginia.”
After an initial review turned up some potential problems, the Navy took a closer look and decided that the Amazon farm was not likely to interfere with its radar.
Brown and his supporters are not likely to succeed in this latest attempt to kill off wind development in North Carolina. Other Republicans in the state legislature are in favor of a more renewables-friendly state policy and they are already talking about pulling the anti-wind amendment from the bill.
That’s quite a switch from 2013, when Facing South magazine noted that 42 North Carolina state legislators signed on to a Koch-backed national “No Climate Tax Pledge” — far more than any other state (Arkansas was next with 30).
It’s The Encroachment, Stupid (And Climate Change)
Some of Brown’s critics have pointed out that between the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Authority there is already ample oversight in place to prevent interference from wind energy development with military operations.
In other words, the Brown-backed legislation has nothing to do with military readiness, and everything to do with…well, follow the money.
The Progressive Pulse blog notes that retired North Carolina real estate developer and politically influential climate change denier John Droz has been a significant force behind the anti-wind legislation over the past several years, reportedly in the interests of preserving the value of coastal real estate investments.
In the meantime, the wind farm issue is muddying the waters when it comes to addressing more significant sources of interference with operations at US military bases.
Rising sea levels, for example, are threatening at least one major US Navy base, and military planners are already concerned that a climate-linked uptick in extreme weather is hampering the Defense Department’s ability to schedule training operations.
The climate-linked readiness issue is an especially big one for the Army. Here’s an explainer from the Army’s own news service last year:
For the Big Green Machine — America’s Army — climate change, efforts to prevent it, or to at least adapt to it are about more than saving Mother Earth or even the whales. It’s about training, training space, how the Army fights, how often the Army will be called upon to fight in the future, and where.
Encroachment on training grounds by non-wind development is another significant issue for US domestic bases. The encroachment issue began percolating well before the US wind industry took off, and it has gathered steam as new populations move into formerly rural areas.
US Military Hearts Wind Energy
To be clear, the Defense Department’s ability to host massive wind farms on site is limited in comparison to the robust slate of solar activities at military facilities. However, some examples of on site wind turbine construction have popped up here and there, and wind power is included in DoD’s extensive decarbonization plans.
DoD has also been focusing on importing wind energy from remote sites. One recent example is the first known project of its kind, a renewable energy hybrid project that combines on site solar with off site wind.
As for interference from that group of Republicans in the North Carolina legislature, the anti-wind contingent does not appear to have the votes needed to override a veto that is sure to come from newly minted Governor Roy Cooper, so stay tuned for more on that.