Wind Potential Is Great in N.C.
If North Carolina happened to boast one of the most extensive petroleum reserves in the nation, and yet no one ever bothered to drill a single oil well, it would seem odd.
Yet so it is with wind power reserves. North Carolina, according to the statistics available, boasts some of the best wind energy resources of any state in the union. And yet when was the last time you saw a power-generating windmill anywhere from Manteo to Murphy?
There are good reasons for that seeming contradiction, but a recent ruling by a federal agency indicates that things could be changing.
To be sure, most of the energy discussion that has taken place in North Carolina in the past couple of years has had to do primarily with the availability of shale gas and oil that could presumably be accessed through the controversial extraction method known as fracking. But that discussion has raised plenty of environmental concerns.
A Role in the Mix
Clean sources of energy such as wind, solar and tide will never solve all of our energy problems, or even come close. Yet there is a role for them in the overall mix. And in that regard, North Carolina happens to be sitting on a relative gold mine.
Though Moore County and environs are not known for being particularly windy places, things are dramatically different if you travel far enough west or east of here.
In the mountainous western end of our state, there is a near-constant supply of wind power just waiting to be exploited as the technology for doing so continues to improve. In the past, though, there have been understandable outcries whenever developers of wind power have attempted to build huge, sometimes annoyingly noisy windmills on scenic mountain ridges.
On the eastern end, North Carolina enjoys an unusually long and breezy coastline. There, too, the potential for wind power would seem to be great. But there are also problems there. Tourists who have paid big bucks to enjoy ocean views would hardly welcome the prospect of gazing out at massive wind farms whirling away just off the coast.
The sweeping blades of massive power-generating propellors also sometimes wreak havoc with migratory bird flocks. Similar avian concerns played a key role a few years ago in forcing the Navy to junk its plan for an outlying landing field in the northeastern part of the state.
Incentives in Place
Now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says it has identified three large areas just off the coast where wind power could be produced with a minimum of such undesirable side effects.
That potential is unlikely to go anywhere unless private developers come forward with plans to follow though on these possibilities. Perhaps helping motivate them in that regard are existing state regulations that require electric utilities operating in North Carolina to generate increasing shares of their power from alternative sources.
A further nudge in that direction will come next year if Congress renews the existing tax break for companies pursuing wind-energy ventures.
There are obviously lots of ifs, ands and buts here. But few states would appear to be in a better position to play a leading role in expanding this form of clean, renewable energy. Let's go for it.
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