April 6, 2013
Offshore: Last fall, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) finished a renewable energy lease plan for the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast. BOEM asked companies interested in developing wind energy in the designated lease areas to submit a proposal by March 7, 2013. Five companies sent in wind energy development proposals (Virginia Electric and Power Company, EDF Renewable Energy, Fisherman’s Energy LLC, Green Sail Energy LLC, and Outer Banks Ocean Energy LLC.) Find complete information on the proposals here . The BOEM website provides more information on the renewable energy lease plan for waters off the North Carolina coast.
Onshore (and near shore): Bills have been introduced in the N.C. General Assembly to create a state permitting process for wind energy facilities. Senate Bill 491 (= H 484) creates a new state permit to be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The permit review would look at both environmental impacts and impacts on military operations. Last year, two land-based wind projects proposed for sites near the North Carolina coast (one in Beaufort County and the other in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties) raised concern at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro. (There are more onshore wind energy projects proposed for the coastal counties, but not as far along in the planning/site approval process.)
The military has two concerns about the siting of wind turbines: radar interference caused by movement of the blades and risk of collision between low-flying military aircraft and wind turbines that may be more than 500 feet tall. North Carolina’s coastal counties have a large amount of military special use airspace, including training routes that have “floors” as low as 200 feet. Wind energy development could be a real economic boost to interior and largely rural areas of the coastal counties. The trick will be to make wind energy development compatible with military operations that contribute significantly to the broader state economy and have an important role in national defense. The Department of Defense has a clearinghouse for review of development projects that may affect military operations. The new state wind permit would provide a way to consider military concerns in state decision-making.
Note: State jurisdiction only extends three miles from shore in the Atlantic Ocean, so most offshore wind projects only require federal permits. North Carolina can influence federal permitting and lease decisions for offshore energy development (whether wind turbines or oil and gas production) through the state’s coastal management program.
Study Links Underground Disposal of Wastewater and 2011 Oklahoma Earthquake
This New York Times article provides a good overview of a recent study (published in the journal Geology) concluding that underground disposal of wastewater from oil production caused a 2011 Oklahoma earthquake that measured 5.7 on the Richter scale, destroyed a number of homes and injured two people. The Oklahoma Geological Survey reached a different conclusion.
Could Fracking and Renewable Energy Make a Happy Marriage?
Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, has an interesting blogpost on fracking and renewable energy.