November 25, 2018
As executive director of Audubon North Carolina — a state office of the National Audubon Society — people are sometimes perplexed when I tell them our organization supports responsible wind energy projects. People have memories of poorly designed wind projects from the 1970s that led to large numbers of bird deaths, including California’s Altamont Pass Wind Farm, and therefore assume that Audubon is opposed to wind energy.
Fortunately, those poorly designed wind projects from the past could not be built in North Carolina today. We now have stringent local, state and federal rules in place that help ensure wind projects are properly designed, sited and monitored to avoid significant impacts on wildlife and natural areas. North Carolina’s House Bill 484 requires wind developers to study the impacts of their projects on wildlife and military installations and gives affected parties an opportunity to voice any concerns. At the same time, Congress has established a committee to review and halt any proposed wind projects that constitute a hazard to military operations and national security — the Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse.
Despite these existing protections, last year North Carolina lawmakers approved an 18-month moratorium, or temporary ban, on new wind energy projects in the state. Supporters of the moratorium described the measure as a “pause” to ensure that the wind industry would not have undue impacts on our military bases and communities in eastern North Carolina.
Since the passage of this law, no evidence has come to light to show that North Carolina’s military bases or pilots would be adversely affected by a growing wind energy industry. In fact, leading military experts say just the opposite. For instance, retired Lt. Gen. John Castellaw of the U.S. Marine Corps has noted that “wind energy and our national military operations are compatible. They can be mixed and the result is making us stronger as a nation.” Castellaw knows what he is talking about, having flown more than two dozen different aircraft during his 36 years of service for the Marines, including stints at Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point in eastern North Carolina.
As state lawmakers return to Raleigh after the elections, it is time to put aside overly restrictive limits on wind energy investment and job creation by opposing any extensions of the wind moratorium. North Carolina’s elected officials should instead support clean energy projects that are responsibly sited, reduce the impact of carbon pollution on birds and other wildlife, and make our country more secure by diversifying our energy sources.
Andrew Hutson is executive director of Audubon North Carolina
Access the original op-ed in the Daily Advance here.