An F-15E Strike Eagle drops through the sky on a low-level training mission and encounters — a wind turbine.
With turbine blades reaching within 8 feet of F-15s on missions out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the proposed Pantego Wind Energy project resulted in a serious risk.
So, in January, Chicago-based Invenergy did away with its original plans to put a 49-turbine wind farm in the path of jets headed to the Dare County Bombing Range.
As renewable energy options like wind farms gain traction in North Carolina, Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, introduced a wind energy permit bill that would prevent such conflicts from happening again.
“House Bill 484 is dealing with wind turbines being set up in low-level flight routes, interfering with military flight routes in our state,” Bell said. “That’s a really, really big issue in Eastern North Carolina.”
Just interfering with missions over the Dare County Bombing Range alone, Bell said, could have wide-ranging impacts.
“Also, that wind farm would have affected the training capabilities of Cherry Point and also would have affected out-of-state bases — Langley in Virginia and Sumter in South Carolina,” Bell said. “It would have been a big, big hit for Eastern North Carolina.”
Rep. George Graham, D-Lenoir, signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor, which passed the House Environment Committee April 11 and awaits consideration in the House Public Utilities and Energy Committee.
A similar version of the bill — S.B. 491 — sits in the Senate, where Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, is the primary sponsor. Sens. Don Davis, D-Greene, and Louis Pate, R-Wayne, are co-sponsors of the bill.
“I don’t know if they’ve scheduled a hearing for it yet or not,” Pate said of the Senate bill. “They just might be waiting to see how the House bill is being held.”
He added, “We’re very interested in it and want to go ahead and see it passed.”
Davis said he supports the effort because it’s important to keep military installations and the jobs they provide where they are.
“I believe it’s important for us to continue to make sure North Carolina remains a military-friendly state,” Davis said. “And for me, I have great concerns in making sure Seymour Johnson Air Force Base remains intact. We can’t do anything that could potentially put the base at harm.
“That has tremendous regional implications by doing so, and I just get very concerned when we, possibly, could put the base at risk.”