(updated with comments from County Manager Russell Overman)

MOREHEAD CITY — Torch Renewable Energy LLC, the Houston-based alternative energy giant, announced Friday it will abandon plans to develop a hybrid wind and solar facility near Mill Pond outside Newport.

“In light of the unlikely prospect of acquiring a variance from the county’s current tall structures ordinance, we have decided not to move forward with the project,” Torch Energy's vice president of development Rocky Ray said in a prepared release.

The project – which proposed 40 turbines and an array of solar panels in an area in Newport’s extraterritorial jurisdiction – has caused public outcry over the safety, efficiency, economic and military impacts the facility could have on the area. 

County commissioners held a public hearing Jan. 2 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center, enacting a moratorium on permitting for wind turbine structures and stalling the proposal in an effort to further investigate repercussions of wind facilities.

“All I can say is that the current ordinance in place had to have factored into their decision,” said Chairman Jonathan Robinson of the announcement. “I’m sure that and the climate and the controversy that surrounded this proposal led to their decision (to terminate).”

Mr. Robinson said he felt the board acted in due diligence imposing the moratorium and would continue to look at the ordinance, despite the project retraction from Torch.

The variances necessary for the project, cited by Torch in the release, are likely alterations to the ordinance’s 3,300-foot setback requirement, said County Manager Russell Overman. 

The proposed project would require smaller setbacks to the perimeter to facilitate placement of all 40 of the structures, according to information gleaned by county officials. Mr. Overman said the county was given notice of the dropped proposal Friday afternoon. 
 
Torch Renewable, though in communication with county officials, never submitted an application for permitting of any kind in Carteret County regarding the turbines. An application is on file with the N.C. Utilities Commission. 

Several prominent locals have spoken out against the proposal, including Commissioner Robin Comer and Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret.

Additionally, Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., announced Friday ongoing concerns on the impact turbines would have on National Weather Service radars in the area.

Torch said earlier this month the company was already in mitigation with officials out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to remedy possible turbine interference with airspace.

“The state of North Carolina and the Department of the Navy have very rigorous processes in place to ensure that no wind farm in any way jeopardizes military activities,” Mr. Ray said in the release. “We were looking forward to working through those processes to bring renewable energy to the region.”

Mr. Robinson said the board will fine tune the ordinance and would be open to other alternative energy proposals, given they do not interfere with Cherry Point.

“Our first duty is to safeguard the public and the health of the citizenry. We’re married to Cherry Point here, so the height of the turbines was a main concern for us,” he said.

The proposal was for 500-foot-tall turbines.

Supporters of the clean energy project told the board earlier this month that such projects could bring industry and new possibilities to the Crystal Coast. 

North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard calls for 12.5 percent of the state’s energy to be provided by alternative means by 2021.

Torch could not be reached for further comment at this time.

Contact Jackie Starkey at 726-7081, ext. 232; email jackie@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.

(previous report)

MOREHEAD CITY — Torch Renewable Energy LLC, the Houston-based alternative energy giant, announced Friday it will abandon plans to develop a hybrid wind and solar facility near Mill Pond outside Newport.

“In light of the unlikely prospect of acquiring a variance from the county’s current tall structures ordinance, we have decided not to move forward with the project,” Torch's vice president of development Rocky Ray said in a prepared release Friday night.

The project – which proposed 40 turbines and an array of solar panels in an area in Newport’s extraterritorial jurisdiction – has caused public outcry over the safety, efficiency, economic and military impacts the facility could have on the area. 

County commissioners held a public hearing Jan. 2 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center, enacting a moratorium on permitting for wind turbine structures and stalling the proposal in an effort to further investigate repercussions of wind facilities.

“All I can say is that the current ordinance in place had to have factored into their decision,” said County Commission Chairman Jonathan Robinson of the announcement. “I’m sure that and the climate and the controversy that surrounded this proposal led to their decision (to terminate).”

Mr. Robinson said he felt the board acted in due diligence imposing the moratorium and would continue to look at the ordinance, despite the project retraction from Torch.

Several prominent locals have spoken out against the proposal, including County Commissioner Robin Comer and Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret.

Additionally, Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., announced Friday ongoing concerns on the impact turbines would have on National Weather Service radars in the area.

Torch said earlier this month the company was already in mitigation with officials out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to remedy possible turbine interference with airspace.

“The state of North Carolina and the Department of the Navy have very rigorous processes in place to ensure that no wind farm in any way jeopardizes military activities,” Mr. Ray said in the release. “We were looking forward to working through those processes to bring renewable energy to the region.”

Mr. Robinson said the board will fine tune the ordinance and would be open to other alternative energy proposals, given they do not interfere with Cherry Point.

“Our first duty is to safeguard the public and the health of the citizenry. We’re married to Cherry Point here, so the height of the turbines was a main concern for us,” he said.

The proposal was for 500-foot-tall turbines.

Supporters of the clean energy project told the board earlier this month that such projects could bring industry and new possibilities to the Crystal Coast. 

North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard calls for 12.5 percent of the state’s energy to be provided by alternative means by 2021.

Torch could not be reached for further comment at this time. 

Contact Jackie Starkey at 726-7081, ext. 232; email jackie@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.

(15) comments

David Collins

something tells me that this is not the last of this.

ezbreeze

One nice thing about Carteret Count is there's sand aplenty for heads to be stuck in.

NANASIX

At least Torch was smart enough to realize we wouldn't allow their project in our county, and would fight to the finish. After all, this is our County, not their's to come ruin home value, and the health of it's citizens.

Our current Restrictions are the best in the country thanks to the Planning Commission and all their hard work in 2008, plus any additions they've made since this project became public. I can't thank them enough. God Bless Carteret County, we will survive.

David Collins

Ezbreeze, go ahead and build your own, get rich selling the power and show us the err of our ways.

morehood city res

if there is so much sand then why is everyone fighting over it? you know, as far as where to put it and all

carteret_citizen

You are wrong, ezbreeze.

This is the culmination of an amazing, grass roots community effort to educate ourselves on the potential implications this project may have had, and advocating a position that our decision makers took to heart and realized via ordinance amendments.

So drop the lame "stupid, backwards Republicans" posting gimmick. Would it shock you to know that Torch has made regular donations to the Republican party?

Both sides of this community debate presented their voices and concerns. Our elected officials made the (correct) judgment call that the majority of the community were against this. Furthermore, the cons of this project brought forth by concerned citizens resonated much more strongly than whatever supposed pros it may have provided.

Good job Newport & Carteret County - there is still work to be done, but I'm happy to see that this particular project will not happen.

WillieP

It appears our elected commissioners knew what they were talking about when they passed the tall structure ordinance several years ago. A lot of people who went overboard on the Mill Pond project instead of letting the process work now look very foolish. I guess they will now claim credit for the work that the Board of Commissioners did. Good job guys keep doing what’s right.

inthemiddle

How sad, Eastern NC has some of the highest wind energy potential in the country but our obstructionist population will continue to ignore where their energy truly comes from, coal. We are Reagan's children, a society of me and not we.

carteret_citizen

Willie, care to explain what you mean by "letting the process work"?

Was there any provision in the existing ordinances or recently amendments that overrode or disallowed portions of the state mandated process to occur?

I really enjoy people continuing to tout this line - even Mr. Ray used it to great effect in this article. Nothing that occurred at the local level here inhibited, in any way, the state permitting process from proceeding.

So, if what you mean by "letting the process work" is letting other people make decisions for our livelihood and community, then I guess I categorically disagree with you. We are seeing enough of that occur at all echelons of our bureaucracy, and the last time I checked the polls, people are not too happy with how that goes across the board.

I honestly suspect that people like you who keep saying "let the process work" know the process is inadequate, but it is the best leg you have to stand on to delay any community reaction or outrage over such a controversial project until it is too late to introduce any additional protections that may be necessary.

I'm tired of letting unconcerned bureaucrats make decisions for me. The local community should be the first, not the last voice on a project like this.

Thank goodness knowledge of this project became available as early as it did.

Nothing that has transpired since September disallowed the process from working... Torch made a judgment call about what sort of fight they would have to realize this project - and they made the right call.

WillieP

Five wind farms, zero approved by Carteret County. Looks like the County is batting 1000 over five years.

A lot of up roar from those who do not know what is going on. I guess it is easier to grab a pitch fork and torch (no pun intended) that to listen to what the process allows.

David Collins

Inthemiddle, We fully realize that coal, oil and gas are the main producers. That will not change until technology introduces change that works as we'll or better and is stand alone affordable. The power industry is constantly evolving and intends to become as clean as possible. The alternatives are not as squeaky clean as some would have us believe. There is no,nor ever has been a free lunch.

carteret_citizen

Willie,

Again, explain your rationale. Please enlighten everyone what we missed out on by engaging with our town council & county commissioners. Please point out to me where in the new ordinances it says "prevent H484 from executing".

In my opinion, the H484 process was not executed because Torch made a business decision to stand down. This was likely based upon community response to the project and ordinance changes intended to cover areas H484 does not provide guidance. Had Torch proceeded with the permitting process, the process would have executed. Anyone stating otherwise is just trying to score points playing the victim card.

You seem to imply that what we have in place now is "good enough" and that the process is "good enough". That strikes me both naive and lazy. Why not conduct a critical review of existing legislation, review the revised body of knowledge on the topic, and make improvements where possible?

As Francis states below, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Carolina Gal

Five wind farms? I know of the one proposed down east a few years ago and then this one proposed by Torch. Where were the other three proposed in Carteret County??

Aroundawhile

Zero industrial wind projects would be built without massive amounts of tax dollars and other subsidies.

Even with those massive tax subsidies, absolutely none of the hysterical folks who post here will give the address of the solar or wind project they own. It is not financially practical. Producing less than 1 per cent of worldwide electricity, wind and solar can NEVER replace fossil fuels.

There is nowhere in the WORLD where these large scale wind and solar gimmicks are built unless financed with other people's money and dramatically increasing the cost of conventional electricity.

EVERYWHERE in the world there are now attempts to back off government driven "green" energy programs because they are economically unsustainable.

If it were even important to reduce carbon dioxide, the United States has reduced carbon dioxide emissions because of fracking natural gas than all of the wind turbines and solar panels energy programs worldwide.

We've all been duped about the need to reduce carbon dioxide.

The most recent report is although carbon dioxide has increased, there has been no change in the global temperature average in 17 years.

Seventeen years without that dire global warming.

There are reports that since plants need carbon dioxide, agriculture has benefited by increasing productivity.

Liars and those convinced by liars have for years created a false narrative about carbon dioxide and the need for unsustainable "green" energy to reduce the vital and necessary gas of carbon dioxide.

Reducing beneficial carbon dioxide is ridiculous and counter-productive and an extreme lie designed to limit the economic progress of the United States by those who dislike it politically, including many of those in power now. The only plans ANYONE has proposed to limit carbon dioxide is to impose regulations to make our energy much more expensive and to increase tax payment to governments. Those billions of dollars will do nothing in our lifetimes to reduce any carbon dioxide. But governments do need more money and power. Maybe not.

In the last FIVE years China has built more NEW coal burning, electricity-generating plants than exist in all of the United States. In fact, almost twice what is in the United State and those are over 30 years old. China burns 4 billion tons of coal annually compared to less than 1 billion tons for the US.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfAKsr5CYAACUg_.png:large

"As a society, it is time to recognize and embrace the truth. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Its increasing concentration only minimally affects earth’s climate, while it offers tremendous benefits to the biosphere. Efforts to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions will hurt far more than they will help."
Efforts to Cap CO2 Emissions Are Adverse to Human Health and Welfare
http://blog.heartland.org/2014/02/efforts-to-cap-co2-emissions-are-adverse-to-human-health-and-welfare/


The last refuge of anthropogenic global warming theory fails to stand up to scrutiny
http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-last-refuge-of-anthropogenic-global.html

Aroundawhile

Acres required to power 6 million homes:

Wind 250,000

Solar 130,000

Nuclear 430

See more at: http://www.cfact.org/2013/11/02/u-k-takes-down-infographic-showing-footprint-of-nuclear-vs-renewables/#sthash.I1C5uFQI.dpuf

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