NEWPORT — With a proposal to build a wind and solar energy facility near this town before the state, a retired physicist from Emerald Isle is cautioning people he believes wind energy isn’t a good source of electric power.

John Droz Jr. held a public forum Tuesday night at Fort Benjamin Park to share his findings and opinions on wind energy at the potential impact of Torch Renewable Energy LLC of Houston’s proposed wind and solar energy facility.

More than 100 people attended, including Carteret County Commissioner Bill Smith, Carteret County Commissioner Elaine Crittenton, Newport Town Planner Bob Chambers and State Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico, who also serves Carteret County.

Mr. Droz said his main objective Tuesday night was to get people thinking. He said while he knows a lot about environmental energy issues, he doesn’t know everything.

“My main concern is our state energy policies aren’t based on science,” he said, “but on lobbying from people with political and financial motivation.”

Wind energy has become a major issue in Carteret County since Torch Renewable Energy proposed to build a hybrid renewable energy facility to the east of the Newport corporate limits on 7,150 acres owned by the Weyerhaeuser Co. and a private owner. The facility will have 40, nearly 500-foot-tall wind turbines between Newport and Mill Pond, as well as a 50-75 acre solar panel farm between Little Deep Creek and Little Deep Creek Road.

Mr. Droz compared wind energy proponents to historic snake oil salesmen, saying they’re very good at convincing people that wind energy is an energy source that has no faults or drawbacks.

“Today, with the Internet, it’s easier than ever to spread misinformation,” he said.

Mr. Droz said one of his primary issues with wind energy is his research shows it doesn’t “deliver the goods.” He said wind energy turbines have a capacity value – the ability to be available on demand – less than 10 percent.

“Because of this profound technical difficulty,” Mr. Droz said, “wind energy must be augmented, usually by gas.”

Mr. Droz also said wind energy isn’t completely “green,” i.e. without any environmental impact. He said rare earth elements are used in the production of wind energy turbines, and that the process of building them destroys vegetation, produces air pollution and even radioactive waste.

“A more important matter is human health,” Mr. Droz said. “Dozens of human health studies show that wind energy causes many health risks.”

Ms. Crittenton backed up Mr. Droz’s statement about the concern of health risks. She said after his presentation that not enough information has been brought out about the decibel level and frequencies of noise created by wind turbines.

Looking at the Torch Renewable Energy project specifically, Mr. Droz said one of the biggest concerns was over potential impacts to local military operations at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

The potential visual impact of the Torch Renewable Energy project was also brought up. Mr. Droz presented several photographs he’d taken of the surrounding area near the proposed project, then had turbines of the size being considered by the company digitally inserted. In each illustration, the turbines were clearly visible.

North Carolina currently regulates wind energy facilities through H.B. 484, which requires all wind energy facilities to get a siting permit from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. However, Mr. Droz said this law has “many loopholes.”

“How DENR interprets these loopholes remains to be seen,” he said, “but it’s not looking good.”

Mr. Droz also anticipates the job losses and economic impacts to outweigh the benefits. While Torch Renewable Energy is anticipating eight permanent jobs to be created for the proposed facility and about $700,000 in tax and lease income, Mr. Droz said that a study in Scotland of their wind energy facilities showed a 2-6 percent drop in tourism due to wind energy facilities.

Based on a percentage of four, Mr. Droz said there could be about 112 jobs associated with tourism in Carteret County lost, as well as about $13,300,000 in a combination of lost tourism revenue and damage to agriculture if the turbines prove harmful to bats, which help with pest control.

Mr. Droz said the potential impacts of wind energy can be addressed, but that it will take people standing together to bring about the necessary changes to local, state and federal regulations and policies.

“Breeze energy representatives will paint a rosy picture of wind energy,” he said. “They’re very adept at dismissing people’s concerns. I ask you, don’t fall for it.”

Most of the crowd Tuesday night seemed to support Mr. Droz in his opposition of developing wind energy in Carteret County and in North Carolina in general. However, one person spoke up in favor of wind energy and the Torch Renewable Energy project.

Penny Hooper of the Interfaith Power and Light steering committee said there is no “one right answer” for current and future energy needs. She said it will be like “a patchwork quilt of renewables, like wind and solar as well as fossil fuels for now.”

“The idea of continuing to burn fossil fuels is not a sustainable plan,” she said. “The continued burning of these fossil fuels is putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is directly related to the warming and acidification of our oceans, the accelerated changing climate, the rise of sea level and the increase in major storms like Superstorm Sandy and the recent typhoon in the Phillipines,” she said.

Mrs. Hooper referred to Mr. Droz during her comments as a “climate change denier.” Mr. Droz said he doesn’t deny climate change, but thinks its an unresolved issue. Mrs. Hooper began to debate the percentage of electric energy produced by fossil fuels with Mr. Droz, but several people in the audience called for her to sit down.

Jerry Green, retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and former chief of staff at Cherry Point, was concerned about potential impacts on radar, military training and the future use of the air station.

Ms. Crittenton said the Torch Renewable Energy project caught the county government by surprise. She said the commissioners have tried to speak with the command personnel at Cherry Point, but that “they think more of their position than of talking to peons like us.”

“There’s not enough information coming to us to make decisions on your behalf,” she said. “I feel a heavy governmental hand pushing this through. I feel like we’ve had to protect you from your own state and federal government. We have to make it so they (Torch Renewable Energy) don’t want to come here because we can’t just ban them.”

Regina Hill, an adjacent property owner to the proposed Torch Renewable Energy project, said she finds it funny that North Carolina regulates every industry except the wind energy industry.

“Setbacks need to be based on what’s safe for us, not what’s good for the developer,” she said. “I’m tired of hearing we have to do what’s defendable; we need to do what’s right.”

Sean Heely, a Newport resident, said it’s the company’s responsibility to show that their proposal will work. He said people opposed to the project need to make their presence known at public hearings that will be held as part of the project’s permitting process.

“We can’t stop the project,” he said, “but we can make it undesireable to come here.”

Sen. Sanderson said the General Assembly was caught unaware like Carteret County was by the Torch Renewable Energy project. He said that at the beginning of 2013, the state didn’t have any statutes for permitting wind energy facilities.

“It’s going to take all of you standing together and contacting your legislature (to change regulations),” he said. “It’s going to take every voice in this room, in Carteret County and in all the counties affected. We’ve got to keep it going; these companies sometimes outlast us. We want to protect our military bases, but you’ve got to help us.”

Mr. Droz has a website where he presents additional information on his wind energy research. Anyone interested in seeing this research may visit the website WiseEnergy.org/Carteret-Wind.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

(10) comments

carteret_citizen

Before I expound on part of this article, let me state that I was unhappy with the segments of the tone of Tuesday's forum - though my mind is mostly made up on the (dis)merits of this project, I was genuinely curious to hear differing perspectives and to see if we could reach some degree of commonality as a community. It did get ugly for a few moments, but no one's hands were bloodless in that outcome.

After Mr. Droz's presentation, Mrs. Hooper was one of the first speakers, and she thanked Mr. Droz for giving her the opportunity to speak, despite their contrary opinions on the topic. Other than some mumbling from the audience, Mrs. Hooper was able to offer up her position to the audience uninterrupted. Frankly, I found her appeal more emotionally driven than factually, especially invoking topics of people's children and religion, which caused audible stirring from the audience.

After she spoke, Mr. Droz began to address and rebut her statements, at which point she interrupted him and began speaking over him. At this point, several audience members did loudly and firmly ask her to sit down and stop speaking so that Mr. Droz could finish his counterpoints.

Mrs. Hooper did not speak for the remainder of the meeting; her husband did address one question addressed to her by another citizen. The Hoopers left about halfway through the Q&A portion of the forum.

This forum could have and should have been a more constructive environment. From what I understand of the Hoopers' Carteret County Crossroads organization, they promote environmentally & ecologically sound development in our county. That is admirable, and on other topics posted on their site, I find myself in agreement with them on some points. There is no reason why Tuesday could not have been an information sharing session that citizens attending to use to continue educating themselves and one another on the topic of industrial-scaled wind energy projects.

Regardless of everyone's perspective on green energy or global warming, there are undeniable health, safety and environmental concerns with an industrial scale wind energy project, as there would be with any industrial scale project. These need to be addressed and mitigated via local government ordinances, which has largely been accomplished.

Had Mrs. Hooper not chosen to directly attack Mr. Droz as a "climate change denier", I believe the forum may have had a better chance of being an environment for more open, respectful dialogue. For portions of the forum, it was not.

I feel anyone reading this story online needed more explanation on this situation, because anyone reading this article as-written would perceive the pro-wind energy position was forcibly squelched at this forum. That is simply not true, though the strongest advocates of wind energy development did voluntarily leave.

Whether or not impression construed by this piece reflects careless journalism or the writer's inability to separate fact from his own POV is unknown.

adopted1

admittedly, i'm ignorant on the subject. i do have a common-sense kind of question, though. what about hurricanes?

David Collins

Things fall down, go boom.

adopted1

exactly why i asked. why would they build them here? who pays for them when they go down? before somebody goes off on me, i'm not neccessarily against wind energy. i just question the practicality of putting them here.

Carolina Gal

There is no practical reason to put them at the proposed location. It is too close to Cherry Point, borders a residential neighborhood on one side, Croatan National Forest on another (which if I understand correctly is home to a threatened or endangered species) and Newport River and it's wetlands. Then add in the frequent hurricanes we experience here. How could any person in their right mind who cares about our local environment, economy, and residents think this was a good idea for Carteret County? The thing that makes this site attractive to the developer is that it is one of the few tracts of land in Carteret County large enough for a project of this scale and it already has a large power line running right through it. This should not be just a for or against wind energy argument. This should be about what IS practical and reasonable and safe.

dwardawea

As someone who's already been "outed" as being propped up by a "family of advocacy groups founded and funded by fossil-fuel interests," it's easy to accept that John Droz, Jr.'s words about wind power aren't to be trusted. (http://www.artpopeexposed.com/nc_anti_wind_power_crusader_behind_plot_to_subvert_renewable_energy_industry)

This article reads like a greatest hits of his attacking wind power. The truth about wind power is that it is a clean, homegrown energy resource that's capable of attracting billions of dollars of economic benefits, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs, and add tremendous environmental and health benefits to the country at large. Here are the facts that back this up:

In 2012, a record-setting $25 billion in private investment was added to our economy in new wind farm construction, making wind the top source of newly installed electric generating capacity with 42 percent of all new capacity.

The PTC more than pays for itself in local, state, and federal taxes over the life of the wind project, according to a NextEra Energy Resources analysis.

Studies and utility statements consistently show wind acts as a hedge against volatile natural gas prices in the long term, and helps hold down natural gas prices in the short term.

80,000 construction, manufacturing, and other well-paying jobs were supported by wind power at the start of 2013. There are 23 manufacturing facilities in North Carolina alone that produce wind power parts, supported by hundreds of workers.

The U.S. Department of Energy has found that with the right policies in place, wind power could grow to support roughly 500,000 American jobs by 2030.

Wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year, setting a new installation record and confirming its status as a mainstream energy source.

Iowa and South Dakota reliably produce more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind power; overall, nine states produce more than 12 percent.

Wind power makes the utility system more reliable because it can help keep the lights on when other power sources fail. For example, failures at large fossil and nuclear power plants occur instantaneously and without warning and on several instances, wind power has had to back up fossil fuel powered energy resources.

Adding wind power displaces the most expensive, least efficient power source on the utility grid - usually an older fossil fuel plant.

Wind energy emits no air or water pollution, requires no mining or drilling for fuel, uses virtually no water, and creates no hazardous or radioactive waste. On average, a single wind turbine will avoid over 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 500 cars off the road; in total, the wind fleet avoids 100 million metric tons of CO2 annually – the equivalent of taking over 17 million cars off the road.

Clean, homegrown wind energy source will never run out and has the lowest impact on wildlife and the environment of any of several technologies studied – including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydropower – according to a comprehensive report completed for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Independent, credible studies have consistently found that sound from wind farms has no direct impact on human physical health. A comprehensive study released in January 2012 by the Massachusetts Departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health refutes several myths about sound perpetuated by wind energy opponents. And credible peer-reviewed studies from around the world, in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia for example, also refute claims that wind farm sound causes negative health impacts.

Stay in tune with the American success story that is wind power by visiting aweablog.org/blog

David Ward, AWEA

David Collins

Believe what you wish. Put your money into what works. dwardawea, why don't you build one , with your money and no subsidies and get back to us with the results. You won't do it because no one will back you. Why, it doesn't work. This Green Dream is just that, a dream.

Britain just canceled the worlds largest offshore wind farm. Wonder why? Could be that it is cost prohibitive. Could be, that just like the many other wind projects over there, the energy produced doesn't live up to the claims and what is produced costs way too much. Could be that they are tired of throwing good money after bad. So, now we should do the same? Somehow it will be different? Yeah, right. Your land, your money, you be the first to jump in. Tell us how warm the water is.

carteret_citizen

Mr. Ward,

You introduce your position by stating Mr. Droz is propped up or funded by advocacy groups and/or fossil-fuel interests. As such, his position is not to be trusted.

You are the manager of strategic communications for the AWEA, which is the nation's wind energy trade association - erstwhile known as a lobbying firm. Your office is in Washington DC. I just "outed" you.

Based upon your own logic, why should we trust YOUR dissertation verbatim below?

Feel welcome to share your perspective on wind energy all you like, but you may find us eastern North Carolinians are quite capable of recognizing when the pot is calling the kettle black.

Your idyllic representation of the wind energy solution conveniently ignores its total life cycle impacts - namely the energy required and carbon emissions footprint associated with the manufacture and construction of these systems. How quickly does industrial wind energy recuperate its upfront energy and emissions costs? You cannot equate any savings into its overall life cycle benefit until then.

How about when the wind is not blowing? Auxiliary power generation - read, fossil fuel powered plants - are still required. Ironically, system load is highest when wind is least capable of providing reliable power.

I am hardly shocked wind energy projects in 2012 were at an all time high - the risk to developers missing out on the crucial PTC was much lower. What you fail to mention is that wind energy project investment is down so far in 2013 - arguably because of the looming cancellation of the PTC. Amazing that no one wants to spend money on these systems without the guarantee of massive government subsidies. End all government subsidies on energy projects and let's see which technologies come out on top.

Since you're all altruistically into this endeavor to combat the global warming trend, how about recent evidence that shows large wind turbine farms actually INCREASE local air temperatures?

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/tx-wind-farm.html

Regardless of how rosy you choose or choose not to paint industrial wind energy, there are perfectly reasonable concerns with regards to noise, blade glint, shadow flicker, system failure / blade release, and setback. Our local debate is not over whether or not wind energy belongs in Carteret County, but how to ensure the presence of such a project minimizes the impact to OUR home, jobs and environment.

Carolina Gal

"David Ward
Manager, Strategic Communications
I manage AWEA’s Rapid Response Team, act as caretaker for AWEA’s top messages about wind power, and provide analysis on wind power-related news and trending issues. I own a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication from Villanova University and earned a Commendation for Service from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid due to work for the Democratic Policy and Communications Center (DPCC)."

You are PAID to support wind energy. Hardly an unbiased opinion. A little hypocritical I think! Why would wind energy need a "Rapid Response Team"? Sounds like something a politician would have to handle damage control. If you could at least admit to one negative aspect of wind energy you would sound somewhat credible. If any industry wants to build in an area, we must weigh the benefits against the negative impacts. If the negatives outweigh the positives then it should not be built. Period. Regardless of what type of industry it is. Wind energy should not be forced upon an area due to political and financial reasons.

David Collins

Is there anyone who does not think this is going to be forced upon us ?

Welcome to the discussion.

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