Front Porch Blog

Mountains of Potential: Fighting for Wind in Western North Carolina

By Megan Naylor
Megan is a frequent contributor to The Appalachian Voice publication, and served as Appalachian Voices’ Communications intern during Spring and Fall 2010.

For most people a 6 a.m. ride to Raleigh in a rental van is not something worth smiling about, but last week it was a task that 14 other lobbyists and I from around the High Country took on willingly, knowing it would be an important catalyst for change.

We traveled to meet with House Representatives to explain the importance of wind for our environment, economy and future of Western North Carolina and I was excited to be a part of the push–the push being for the House to sit on Senate bill 1068 in the short session and work towards a more fair and comprehensive bill in the longer session.

We rose to the challenge, aware that the only way to move into a sustainable future is to ensure the voice of the people desiring change be heard.

As many snuggled down in the van to rest before our day began, my mind wandered to questions of what involvement with this issue meant and what would come of it.

The potential for wind is clear if you have hiked in Boone on a windy day, but S1068 would limit turbines in North Carolina to below 100 ft, essentially creating a de facto ban on any feasible commercial scale wind project.

Without understanding the scale needed to produce high energy output, it is hard to grasp why 100 ft would be limiting, but to put it in perspective Boone’s very own Broyhill wind turbine is 115 ft to the hub and 66 ft in blade diameter and turbines capable of large energy output typically range from 164ft to over 262 ft.

Due to location, the Broyhill turbine is a class 2 wind site, meaning its ability to generate wind is greatly limited and will produce power for approximately 15 homes. Broyhill turbine was erected to set an example and be a beacon of hope for sustainability and is doing just that.

In a recent poll conducted by Appalachian State Appropriate Technology graduate Marcus Taylor, over 85% of people noted that they hope to see wind turbine development grow in the mountains.

If passed by the House S1068 would not allow a turbine the size of Broyhill to exist much less permit wind farms to be built that can power entire communities.

By bringing together both sides of the political spectrum, we aim to establish responsible clean energy options, dismantling our dependence on extraction of limited resources by destructive means such as mountaintop removal.

Pursuing wind will move us into an era where innovation and environmental conscious are present while simultaneously creating green jobs and lowering reliance on foreign resources.

Upon arrival we were ushered to meet with Representative Cullie Tarleton who as a member of both the Energy and Energy Efficiency Committee and the Natural Resources Committee has the chance to vote twice on whether S1068 passes in the house. As advocates of wind we were there to clarify why the bill as is means devastation for wind development and why the House needs to pass a more reasonable bill concerning turbine height and placement.

We asked Tarleton not to make a move on the S1068 during short session, allowing us the opportunity to work towards a better bill. He raised questions of placement and environmental impact and we explained that those present, including members of Appalachian Voices and Appalachian Initiative for Renewable Energy held environmental responsibility as a top priority and that our reason for lobbying for wind was to protect our environment not to harm it.

It is important to note that in any large scale construction project will have some environment impact, but doing extensive research to negate those impacts is something we take very seriously.

Agreeing to wait to delve further into S1068 Tarleton thanked us for coming and standing up for what we believe.

The rest of the day followed a similar path.

Meetings were held with republicans and democrats alike and the answer echoing through the halls that day seemed clear;
“We hear what you’re saying, we are motivated by your education on the issue and your passion and we plan to hold off in the short session and take another look at it in the long session when we have more time to do this issue the justice it deserves.”

We arrived with sleepy smiles and left with the same. Street lights illuminated our way as we walked back to the bus, ready for the day they would be powered by turbines spinning in the breeze.

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