The eight Republican state legislators from North Carolina – which included Sens. Harry Brown and Norman Sanderson and Reps. George Cleveland and Pat McElraft – who signed on to a recent letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, asking him to permanently close the Desert Wind farm just west of Elizabeth City, may have landed on the wrong side of the issue.
First, the letter, which was the subject of a column penned by Lisa Sorg for N.C. Policy Watch, may have relied on unreliable sources to make its points. Sorg quotes Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, who states: “The letter was misinformed.” At issue is background information provided by Breitbart News, which is “a primary disseminator of fake new,” and the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, which advocates against wind energy, according to Sorg’s reporting. And, second, there is a discernible shift in attitude toward alternative energy among the GOP.
The four elected leaders from Onslow and Carteret counties are apparently standing behind their decisions to sign the letter. But another of the signers, House Speaker Tim Moore, has since “walked back his opposition to the farm,” Sorg notes.
In discussing their opposition to the wind farm – developed by Avangrid, a subsidiary of Iberdola Renewables of Spain – Cleveland and McElraft pointed to the potential for a breach of national security. (Neither Brown nor Sanderson responded to a request for comment.) The facility is near a U.S. radar facility in Virginia and radar systems – depending on the position and proximity of turbines and radar – can be adversely affected. But Iberdola worked with the Pentagon on mitigating any conflicts and the Pentagon approved of the project. The company built fewer turbines than the 150 planned until monitoring shows additional units would be safe. Energy generated by Desert Wind will be used to power an Amazon facility in Virginia.
The local governments of Pasquotank and Perquimans counties are standing firmly behind the project, as is State Rep. Bob Steinburg of Chowan County, a Republican. In a Coastal Review Online article, Steinburg that he would fight any move to shut down the wind farm unless he saw solid evidence that claims in the letter were true. The push to shut down the wind farm, he said,“has very little to do about the military and everything to do with anti-renewables,” Steinburg said.
The new GOP attitude may best be articulated by Charlotte businessman Jay Faison, who was responsible for contributing about $8.6 million to 15 congressional races and electing 13 Republicans, including Sen. Richard Burr. He believes clean energy is good politics. Not only that, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for energy secretary, comes from the state with the most wind-generated energy in the nation. And then there is the economics. One of the fastest growing professions in the country is wind turbine technician. Of course, wind and solar represent the right thing to do. When Desert Wind broke ground, former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said, “By diversifying our energy resources, we can provide affordable, reliable, and secure sources of energy that are environmentally clean and safe.”