Lawmakers Try To Save Critical Military Assets From Wind Turbines

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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North Carolina state lawmakers have filed a bill to protect critical military assets from wind turbine development.

The bill would halt permits for new wind farms until the Pentagon determines they do not interfere with military operations. Lawmakers worry new wind farms could endanger pilots and paratroopers at the state’s six military installations. Lawmakers also worry wind turbines could interfere with radar.

“There is hereby established a moratorium on consideration of applications for a permit and on the issuance of permits for wind energy facilities and wind energy facility expansions in this State,” reads the proposed legislation. “The purpose of this moratorium is to allow the General Assembly ample time to study the extent and scope of military operations in the State.

More than 575,000 North Carolinians are either directly employed or supported by the Department of Defense, according to the bill, making it critical to the state’s economy.

Lawmakers seem to be targeting an Obama administration-approved wind power farm critics say could interfere with military radar in North Carolina.

The U.S. military initially opposed the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East. Top military officials, including former Marine Gen. John Kelly, who now serves as Trump’s homeland security secretary, argued it would hurt the critical military radar systems.

The Amazon wind farm is near one of two Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar, or Rothr sites, which the military uses to track aircraft and ships across the Atlantic Ocean. Studies by the Navy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the nearby wind farm will likely interfere Rothr functions.

Kelly has told Congress the wind farm “could and likely will adversely impact our Rothr systems” and that the military had “little confidence we will succeed” in offsetting the wind farm’s impacts.

In 2011, the Spanish wind power company Iberdrola applied to build roughly 100 wind turbines close to the ROTHR site. If completed, this would be the first major utility-scale wind farm in North Carolina and one of the first in the southeastern U.S., but is only being built due to green energy mandates. The wind farm will only generate 10 permanent jobs when it is in full operation.

The military opposed the project for three years, until Kelly was overruled in late 2014 when the Pentagon approved it saying, “it is an objective of the DoD to ensure that the robust development of renewable energy resources … may move forward in the United States.” The Navy claims it changed positions due to new research showing that the wind farm won’t interfere with the ROTHR site, but has declined to release the study to justify the flip.

Kelly and much of the military’s objections to the wind farm may have been ignored as part of former President Barack Obama’s general push to “green” the armed forces. Obama pushed the military into several other green schemes, which compromised readiness.

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