Don’t tell the N&O, but there are questions worth asking about the Amazon Wind Farm

A new report from the renewable energy industry concludes that what society really needs is more government favoritism for the renewable energy industry. Previous industry reports make the same finding, and while it’s not remarkable that an industry’s advocates should think it is good for society, what is remarkable is how this industry keeps showing that its business model is solely reliant upon securing favorable government policies.

So this report’s conclusions call for regulatory requirements on buildings, appliances, and vehicles; a fleet of policies, targets, and mandates “to hasten renewable energy deployment” by utilities; policies, funding, and aid “to support technology development”; and policies to limit expansion and raise costs on traditional energy sources in order to force and “shift us away from fossil fuels.”

Consumers of news expect media to be wary of an industry report seeking government favoritism bestowed upon that industry at taxpayer expense and government disincentives placed against that industry’s competitors at consumer expense. Sometimes, however, media give certain industries a pass.

So when the News & Observer writes this week about the report, it doesn’t question any of it. This odd journalistic rollover leaves the paper open to missing rather important things.

For example, the N&O’s article includes a part about the 18-month moratorium passed last year on wind energy projects. This is all the explanation of the moratorium it gives:

The bill was a wide-ranging alternative-energy plan that had been reached after months of negotiations among legislators, Duke Energy, environmentalists and others. The wind moratorium was a last-minute addition. It was included because Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican, was concerned that tall wind turbines would interfere with military training flights.

My goodness, how dare Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown upset that agreement with his “concerns.” Let’s not look into them and see if those concerns had any validity.

Here’s what I wrote when the moratorium was proposed:

A new Part XIII in version 4 would establish a four-year permitting moratorium for wind energy facilities (or expansions) to allow the General Assembly to study how those facilities impact military operations.

Carolina Journal reporting over the years has shown there are serious consequences to how wind facilities affect local communities and military installations. Massive turbines can disrupt military flight paths and training and also interfere with radar surveillance capabilities, hampering the military’s tracking of aircraft and ships suspected of transporting illegal drugs to the U.S.

Taking time-out to study these issues would be sensible.

Those concerns aren’t just Brown’s, although N&O readers might not know that. Shortly afterwards, readers here learned they weren’t even just North Carolina’s. Turned out New York lawmakers were also wrestling with the issue of what can be done about wind turbines interfering with military radar.

For that matter, it wasn’t a “last-minute” addition. It was a change made in the Senate of the bill (House Bill 589) after it had passed out of its original chamber. That is an unremarkable occurrence. It passed the Senate, went back to the House, that chamber did not concur with the Senate version, and a conference committee produced the final version of the bill. (If you’ll notice, the Senate’s moratorium was four years; the final bill’s was 18 months.)

Reporting on the question of wind turbines

Today we learn how significant Brown et al.’s concerns are. Don Carrington reports for Carolina Journal:

A new study from the U.S. Navy says expanding the Amazon Wind Farm site near Elizabeth City, as the operator planned to do, may cause interference with the Navy’s radar-tracking facility in southern Virginia.

The Navy released the executive summary of its study July 9. It concluded the interference produced by the existing 104 Amazon Wind Farm turbines is allowable based on a 2014 agreement between the Navy and the wind farm operator Avangrid Renewables. But Avangrid’s to plan to add another 46 turbines could cause problems with the Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar.

The ROTHR receiver plays a key role in the military’s tracking of aircraft and ships suspected of transporting illegal drugs and other banned substances to the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, told Carolina Journal the executive summary confirmed what he had been told privately by military officials.

“The report says no expansion of the wind turbines at this site,” he said. In addition to the radar interference issue, Brown said he is concerned about compatibility with military training flights in eastern North Carolina. “[Active] military guys are reluctant to speak up. If you talk to retired military, these things [500-foot turbines] are concerns. We need to be cautious about permitting these,” he said.

There are other questions about the Amazon project than the issue of military radar. For example, as Don Carrington reported for Carolina Journal:

The facility now known as the Amazon Wind Farm was approved by state regulators after they were told it would provide part of the electric power necessary for the state to satisfy renewable energy mandates passed in 2007 by the General Assembly.

But it doesn’t supply any of that energy, signaling another instance of what critics consider frequent deception by the wind industry intended to fool the public into authorizing its projects. (See related story here.)

Nevertheless, the only mention in the N&O of the Amazon project is to have another industry representative say how it is a “great success” that “we need to build on.”

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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