UNC and Duke Energy to Build Offshore Wind Turbines, Despite State's Plan to Ban Them From Mountaintops (Updated)


Is a Storm Brewing in North Carolina? Image via: Inhabitat
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The University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (UNC) isn't dismayed by reports of other states having a tough go at getting mountaintop wind turbines approved. In fact, they weren't even dismayed when their own state of North Carolina announced earlier this year that they just might ban wind turbines for the state just for being ugly, and no we're not kidding. Those Tar Heels are taking it all in stride and working with Duke Energy to get wind turbines installed just off the coast, reports UNC News. Apparently UNC - Chapel Hill sees nothing ugly or wrong with wind turbines, or maybe they're just able to look past the exterior and see them for who they truly are. Awww. Either way, the University has already contracted with Duke Energy to install three "demonstration" turbines on Pamlico Sound near the Outer Banks - to be installed in 2010. Duke Energy will pay for the installation and maintenance of the turbines, while the University will conduct studies about environmental impacts, energy generation, and even impacts of tropical storms on the turbines.

In fact, the state wants to help promote offshore wind turbines and even had a hand in getting these demonstration turbines installed. Prior to granting approval to install the turbines, the state legislature commissioned and paid for UNC to complete a nine-month study showing that North Carolina is a great candidate for offshore wind production. Given the tumultuous history that offshore wind has had gaining approval in other states, these may be the first turbines installed in US waters. Duke currently has 634 MW of land-based wind turbines installed in the US, along with an additional 99 MW under construction and 251 MW more planned for 2010. It is hoped that with the ongoing research by the University, that these turbines will be a catalyst for additional wind turbine installations, both off the coast of North Carolina and in other waters.

Officials from the University and Duke Energy, along with several elected officials met with community members in the Outer Banks to let them know about the project and get their support. Technically the turbines will only be 7-10 miles offshore and more than likely visible from the Outer Banks. But, the turbines will be on the Pamlico Sound side, near a wildlife refuge and therefore won't block any ocean views.

North Carolina is threatening to ban mountaintop wind turbines based on aesthetics. With the huge energy potential that offshore wind could provide the US, and with offshore wind popping up all over Europe seems it's high time we move beyond looks at least and consider wind power. It seems the winds of change may be blowing in North Carolina.

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Tags: North Carolina | Oceans | Wind Power

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