Raleigh couple look to sell energy
Daily Tar Heel (2008-02-12) Becca Denison
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By: Becca Denison, staff writer
Growing up in Bettie, N.C., Nelson Paul was always fascinated with wind. He loved to surf and sail, but mostly he was intrigued that wind could also be used for electricity.
Along with his wife, Dianna, Paul has requested permission from the N.C. Utilities Commission to harness wind power using three turbines on 33 acres of land he owns in Carteret County.
As a recent state law requires investor-owned utilities to buy 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, the Raleigh couple hopes to sell the electricity generated by their turbines to Progress Energy in Raleigh.
"If renewable energy were to become available, we will purchase 100 percent of (that) energy," said Progress Energy spokesman Scott Sutton in reference to potential in-state renewable energy sources.
The Pauls' proposed wind farm would generate 4.5 megawatts, which is enough power for about 900 homes.
Among renewable energy options, wind power is considered viable but less consistent than solar power. Other drawbacks include the high cost of turbines and a lack of necessary infrastructure.
Blackwater Inc. spent almost $200,000 to build a turbine off the coast to generate wind power to help pay the company's electricity bill.
Blackwater spokesman Ted Vogel said the company expects the turbine to save $9,000 to $11,000 a year in utility costs.
Vogel said the company's effort wasn't an attempt to gain positive publicity or even to set an example.
"Our intentions were not that grand," he said, explaining that the goal was simply to save money and make a dent in carbon dioxide emissions.
Vogel said the turbine should offset 4 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in its lifetime.
According to a study done by La Capra Associates Inc. on behalf of the N.C. Utilities Commission, the best wind potential can be found along the coast and in the western mountains.
But ordinances in western North Carolina have limited the development of wind power sources, and a lack of infrastructure is blocking their development on the east coast.
"Infrastructure for electricity is set up for large-scale generation," said Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for N.C. Green Power, a non-profit alternative energy group.
Brooks said the infrastructure for wind power has not been developed because it is a new technology that generates power on a much smaller scale. The current structure makes it difficult for those like Paul to develop wind farms.
If the N.C. Utilities Commission approves his proposal, Paul will still need to obtain numerous other permits to begin developing.
Paul said that he believes wind power will be a big part of renewable energy, but that there should be a regulatory framework in place.
"This state has not made up its mind whether it really wants renewables," Paul said. "To get where I am, an applicant could easily spend $100,000 and still not be anywhere."
After a hearing before the N.C. Utilities Commission last Tuesday, neighbors of the proposed site for the wind farm objected to the turbines because of the possible noise and aesthetic disturbance.
"We think a lot of them," Paul said of his neighbors, "but they're not approaching it from a factual standpoint … (I'm) doing everything to get along with them."
The neighbors' objections spurred Carteret County commissioners to hold public hearings which could result in the suspension of any wind turbine construction.
"It's on a schedule, there's no way to move it along," said Tom Lam, a spokesman for the utilities commission. The commission is required to follow protocol and gave no objections to the proposal itself.
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