By Rob Morris on March 18, 2010
People wanted to know if fishing would be restricted. Would there be electromagnetic interference? How far would birds have to fly to get around them? Would they be an eyesore for tourism and property values?
These were some of the questions raised Thursday as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Duke Energy launched an environmental study of what would be the country’s first offshore wind turbines.
Called a scoping meeting, the gathering at the Dare County Justice Center wasn’t a public hearing but a chance for citizens to make their concerns known so they can be included, and probably answered, in an environmental impact statement.
The demonstration project moved ahead following a study by the University of North Carolina that recommended it in June 2009 and identified suitable places to put the massive windmills.
“It’s going to help us answer a lot of questions about offshore wind and its future in the United States,” Spencer Hanes of Duke Energy said.
Hanes said that 1.5 percent of the the energy in the United States is generated by wind. None of it is produced by turbines over water. Europe is far ahead of the U.S. in developing offshore wind power, he said.
One of the answers the project hopes to answer is whether the big turbines can withstand hurricanes and tropical storms.
The meeting was the beginning of a long process that will lead to a permit if it passes environmental muster. No specific timetable was provided Thursday.
Planned are one to three turbines 7.3 miles west of Avon and 9.1 miles north of Frisco in the Pamlico Sound. Each would generate one to three megawatts that could produce enough power for 500 to 2,500 homes.
The turbines are larger than the ones based on land, according to Duke Energy. Each would have a tower about 260 above the water to the center of the blades. The lowest blade tip would be about 75 feet above the water and the highest, 440 feet. Duke compared those dimension with the height of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is 208 feet tall.
Although Thursday’s scoping session was not designed to provide answers to those participating, a Duke Energy fact sheet did address some of them.
Around the world, researches have observed birds flying around offshore wind turbines, it said, and the effects on birds and aquatic life will be part of the study.
It said wind turbines would be compatible with recreational boating and fishing although there would be restrictions within 30 feet of the foundations. Access to the location, however, would be limited during construction. It noted that the sound is 2,000 square miles, and the project would occupy less than 0.15 percent of it.
Duke said it has put together a visualization study so that residents can get a sense of what the turbines will look like from various locations on the Outer Banks.
Comments on the project can be sent by mail or e-mail to:
Washington Regulatory Field Office
U.S Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 1000
Washington, NC 27889
More information on the project can be found at this link to the corps of engineers.