A Regulatory Framework for Wind Energy in North Carolina
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Wind energy is the fastest growing energy sector in the U.S., and while it provides a clean, renewable source of energy, it is not without environmental and other impacts. The first utility-scale wind farm was proposed in the mountains of North Carolina in July, 2006, bringing to the forefront a question that has been brewing for some time: How is the siting of wind facilities currently regulated in North Carolina and what, if any, changes are needed to ensure that wind energy is sited in an appropriate and environmentally sound manner? This master’s project provides: (1) an overview of siting issues associated with wind farms; (2) an analysis of the current regulatory structure governing the siting of wind farms in North Carolina; (3) an analysis of regulatory frameworks for wind energy in nine states (Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia); and (4) an evaluation of five policy options for North Carolina. The policy options range in regulatory intensity, from removing regulatory barriers to wind projects but adding no additional regulatory oversight, to requiring environmental review for all projects, to developing a statewide regulatory framework specific to wind energy. The policy options are evaluated against three main criteria – minimizing negative impacts, providing opportunities for meaningful public input, and facilitating the development of wind energy. These criteria are further defined with five subcriteria, several of which are drawn from the National Wind Coordinating Committee’s principles of a good wind permitting process. The results indicate that under the current regulatory structure, wind projects would either proceed without much oversight or would likely be prohibited. There are regulatory barriers to wind energy development in the state’s windiest areas through the Ridge Law, which may prevent construction of turbines on ridge tops, and coastal development rules, which may prevent turbines in state waters. Based on a qualitative analysis of the policy options, the development of a statewide regulatory framework for wind energy would best meet the evaluation criteria and facilitate wind energy development in the state while ensuring that projects are sited in a responsible manner that minimizes negative impacts. Such a framework could be implemented through legislation that would remove the regulatory barriers and institute a consolidated permitting process, siting standards projects must meet, and a wind-specific environmental review process.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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