Outer Banks wind farm proposals sought

Kitty Hawk, NC is known for its gusty winds. (Photo: Zoraida Diaz, Reuters)
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Trish Anderton

Windmills may one day rise from the waves off North Carolina’s scenic Outer Banks. The federal  Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has issued a call for companies to submit wind power proposals for the area.

The agency is accepting public comments on the wind energy plan at regulations.gov through January 28. It has identified one possible development site near the Outer Banks off Kitty Hawk and two near Wilmington, NC; it's seeking feedback on everything from potential effects on historic, cultural and natural resources, to how to reduce the visual impact of the turbines.

The Outer Banks, a chain of barrier islands just off the Tarheel State’s coast, has long been a vacation destination. The BOEM notes that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, near the Kitty Hawk site, is “important to the local economy,” with 2.1 million visitors in 2010 generating $115 million in tourism income.

A proposed wind farm off Massachusetts’ Cape Cod has been mired in controversy for a decade, partly out of concern for its possible impacts on tourism and property values. But a project off Rhode Island has inspired much less opposition; a 2009 report found the project could have both negative and positive effects on tourism. Some wind farms have actually begun offering tours to meet the demands of curious visitors.

Commenters on the Outer Banks Voice news site come down mostly against offshore wind: four criticize the idea, saying wind power is not a viable energy source, while two support it. 

“Let them drill of the N.C.coast. If there is a vast supply as they say there is at least gas is a clean fuel,” writes a reader who identifies himself as Jeff.

“Some people really think this is going to make their power bill blow away, Just like those solar panels we all have on our roofs RIGHT!” laughs byn bullets. “DRILL BABY DRILL.”

But James applauds the move: “This is a great step in the right direction. Wind farms have proven extremely effective across the US and rest of the world."

The 2005 Energy Policy Act allows the Department of Energy, BOEM’s parent agency, to support the production of “energy from sources other than oil and gas” on the Outer Continental Shelf – expansive areas lying off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, in the Gulf of Mexico and around Alaska. The Energy Department says wind power could meet 20 percent of America’s electricity demand by 2030.

What do you think about federal plans for a wind farm off the Outer Banks? Share your thoughts with the BOEM at regulations.gov - and copy them into the comments section below!