This page has information about a proposed wind energy development for Tyrrell County (in Northeastern North Carolina). If you have questions about any of this, or have other material that should be included, or find any errors here, or would like to be on our email list, please email John Droz.
Make sure to look at the rest of this WiseEnergy.org website (see menus above), as there are several hundred studies and reports about the negative economic, environmental and technical consequences of industrial wind energy. Several videos worth watching are here.
Make sure to look at our page of some North Carolina laws, proposed legislation, pertinent agencies, etc. as many of these directly apply to this proposed development. To keep current with what’s going on with this project, please periodically check back here for updates. More recent significant additions or modifications will be indicated in green.
Quickie overview: a wind energy developer is reportedly considering an industrial wind energy development that so far has not been named. [Iberdrola, a rumored source, denies that this is them.] According to reputable sources this may consist of 75 or so 600± foot tall industrial turbines — which would be the tallest turbines in the US. The developer is leasing almost all of the land (a 10,000± acre mostly wooded tract) from Weyerhaeuser Corporation.
Our position is that alternative energy sources should be encouraged — but none should be permitted on the public grid until a scientific assessment proves that they are a NET societal benefit. No such scientific assessment exists for wind energy! In fact the evidence from studies done by independent experts conclude that wind energy is a net economics and environmental loser. See below (and read through this website — esp EnergyPresentation.Info) for more details.
The objectives of our elected representatives should be: 1) to encourage development that is a net-benefit to the community, while 2) protecting citizens, the environment, local economies, and military bases from industrialization. The bottom line is that protecting the health, safety and welfare of the community must be the top priority — not promoting the economic interests of some out-of-state investor.
A NC law (H484) was passed in 2013, which sets up the first statewide wind energy permitting process. The NC DENR (Department of Environmental and Natural Resources) is the lead agency, and Timbermill may be the first wind development going through this process. As explained on our NC Wind Energy Information page, H484 is a very weak law, that provides only minimal protections.
As such, NC communities are left on their own to deal with industrial wind energy. Tyrrell County had the foresight to pass a basic wind ordinances in 2009, but it needs revising. As a point of reference, Carteret County (NC) had a major wind project proposed there in 2013. After several public meetings, and considerable research, the Carteret County Commissioners unanimously passed a protections-oriented Tall Structures Ordinance in 2014. Tyrrell County should benefit from Carteret County’s experience.
Tyrrell County citizens were urged to attend the Education Event (movie + Q&A) held in Edenton, on November 22, 2014. For those unable to make it, the film is available on Netflix. Our hope is that after they have a better understanding of industrial wind energy realities, that Tyrrell County will soon upgrade their wind law to provide the basic protections needed for local citizens, businesses and the environment.
Note: How huge is 600 feet?
Economic Realities —
Wind promoters usually present these projects as a “found money opportunity.” However, the typical reality is that the developer makes tens of millions in profit, while the local community has a net economic loss.
In other words, these are usually all about making a killing (at the expense of taxpayers, ratepayers and the environment), as the wind energy business is one of the most lucrative investments in the country. Wind profiteers make exceptional returns due to things like generous federal subsidies, state mandates, and extremely preferential treatment once they are on the electrical grid. The industry goes to great lengths to keep their profits a proprietary number, as they know their bargaining position would be seriously undermined if such information was made public — however, insiders have indicated that (on other wind projects) they expect to make an annual guaranteed net profit of up to 25%! If that holds true on this project, that works out to $40± million per year to the developer!
The only way the developer can make these huge profits on the backs of citizens, is to hope that:
a) they can cheaply buy off the community (e.g. with lightweight regulations, reduced property taxes [PILOT agreement], unguaranteed claims of a few jobs, etc.),
b) the community won’t pay attention to the whole economics picture (see below), and
c) the community won’t notice that there are zero societal net benefits for such a project.
What About Farmers and Hunters?
This project has been marketed as a boon for some local farmers. Making the decision about signing a lease to host industrial wind turbines often sounds like a no-brainer. Farmers will be paid $5000+ per year per turbine for doing almost nothing, right?
Wrong. There are extraordinary implications to signing these leases, which have been called some of the most restrictive, one-sided contracts anywhere.
For starters CAREFULLY read through this overview of the situation. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of over forty legal and financial concerns that any potential leaseholder should thoroughly consider.
The Community will also lose income from hunters, as industrial wind development is incompatible with hunting.
What Are Some Other Pieces of the Economics Picture?
For starters, read what the NC Department of Commerce wrote about another nearby NC coastal wind project:
“Nearly all of the upfront investment will be with firms located outside NC” and “The employment impacts for a project with this much initial investment is small.”
Read this study by the world’s leading bat experts about the substantial economic costs of turbine related bat deaths.
These experts then calculated the cost of turbine bat deaths for each NC county. The mid-range projected agricultural loss for Tyrrell County due to industrial wind development is $3.7± million annually!
Adding those two figures up, and then crediting the county with a generous $900k/year of property tax income:
There is a net annual loss of $3.0± million!
If this is a twenty year project that means there will be a total net loss of $60± million!
And there are even MORE Economics costs!
Plus there is the cost to local and state consumers and businesses due to the higher cost of wind energy electricity.
Plus there is the cost due to the adverse health effects directly caused by industrial turbines.
Plus there is the cost due to the health consequences caused by a proliferation of insects (due to many bats being killed).
Plus there is the “shocking environmental cost” of wind energy.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service made up a special NC map showing where there is a high risk of environmental damage from industrial wind projects. Note that Tyrrell County has a significant amount of such sensitive lands.
The Military Impact —
North Carolina has a long history of being a military friendly state. In addition to us doing more than our share to protect the country, economically this means tens of Billions of dollars to the NC economy.
Many of NC’s important bases are located on (or operate in) the coastal region. Due to wind speeds (and the Ridge law) ALL of the wind development that will happen in NC, will also be in these same coastal regions — which sets up some major conflicts. As an example, the proposed Mill Pond project was a direct threat to the operation of Cherry Point MCAS in Havelock. (This was because the wind project was located on its runway approach, and that it would interfere with their radar operation.)
Another important base that could be severely impacted by coastal wind development, is Seymour-Johnson AFB. One of the main missions of S-J is to train pilots to fly at low altitudes (e.g. to avoid enemy radar). 500+ foot structures in their flight paths present an extremely high risk for loss of life accidents. Their 2012 Report was a superior explanation of the severity of the problem. The S-J operations map below shows how any Tyrrell wind project will cause an immediate and significant threat to S-J to conduct its mission. (Here is a newspaper story where S-J officials are expressing their concerns about wind development with several coastal NC counties, including Tyrrell.)
Two responses often heard as “solutions” to this serious problem: 1) the federal DoD Wind Energy Clearinghouse, and 2) NC’s Wind Permitting law, H484. Unfortunately neither offers our military any meaningful or guaranteed protections when it comes to industrial wind energy. In response to the Mill Pond threat to Cherry Point, a study was drafted: Wind Energy and the Military. It carefully explains why neither of these two “solutions” have substance.
At this point, until H484 is properly fixed, the only protection that our NC military bases have, is for local communities to pass an effective protection-oriented wind ordinance. We are hopeful that Tyrrell County will upgrade their existing wind law to that level.
Some Misc Documents of Interest —
7/16/2012 – Letter from Seymour-Johnson base commander to Governor Perdue, expressing grave concerns about the proposed Tyrrell (and Pantego) wind project.
11/23/13 – Letter to the Editor published in the Chowan Harold about a similar nearby wind project.
11/24/13 – Comments Against Proposed Text Amendment for a nearby county’s similar wind law.
1/15/14 – Letter to the Editor published in the Chowan Harold about a similar nearby wind project.
3/23/14 – Letter to the Editor published in the Chowan Harold about a similar nearby wind project.
4/20/14 – Letter to the Editor published in the Chowan Harold about a similar nearby wind project.
5/30/14 – Letter to the head of the Northeast Commission (now Northeast Alliance) asking why they would be promoting a nearby project that is a net economics loser to the community. [No answer has been received.]
6/11/14 – Letter to the Editor published in the Chowan Harold about a similar nearby wind project.
10/1/14 – Letter to the Editor published in the Chowan Harold about a similar nearby wind project.
The NC Utilities Commission Documents on this project. (The Docket # is unassigned, as Iberdrola has not applied yet.)
Some Tyrrell County Wind Law Information —
Ordinance Bullet Points (on outline of the basics that need to be included in a local protections-oriented wind law).
Writing An Effective Wind Ordinance (more details on the Bullet Points).
Tyrrell County’s Wind Energy Facilities Ordinance.
How does this ordinance compare to Carteret County’s? Major differences!
Contact info for Tyrrell County Commissioners.
[Sometimes the good question is asked: why should the zoning and ordinance for a wind project be any different from a large commercial “Big Box” project (e.g. a Walmart)? The reason that special zoning and ordinances are needed is because there are MAJOR differences. See here to see a list showing some of the differences.]