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US –Proposed N.C. wind farm on collision course with Air Force fighter jets

John Murawski — The Charlotte Observer — August 31, 2012

Troubles keep mounting for a proposed wind farm in Eastern North Carolina that already faces questions about whether it will harm the local bald eagle population.

In the latest round of complications for the Pantego Wind Energy Project, U.S. military officials in Wayne County have disclosed that the 49-turbine wind farm would imperil the daily bombing runs of low-flying fighter jets at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The Pantego project, which requires clearance from the Department of Defense, is set for a Sept. 10 briefing before a Department of Defense review panel called the Siting Clearinghouse. A ruling is expected within a week outlining steps the Pantego project could take to eliminate interference.

The rotating blades on the wind farm’s turbines would extend 492 feet into the air, giving over-flying jets the thinnest margin of clearance. The turbines would be erected in an area where Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles swoop in at 500 feet as they approach the Dare County Bombing Range.

The wind farm, proposed by Chicago-based Invenergy on 11,000 acres in Beaufort County, would be the first of its kind in North Carolina. It was approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission in March, but it still requires environmental and military approvals before it can move ahead.

The proposed location of the turbines also could interfere with military radar used to track the F-15E practice runs, according to a letter Col. Jeannie Leavitt, commander of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson, wrote to Gov. Bev Perdue in July. The letter was submitted to the Utilities Commission this month by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, which supports the Air Force installation as a vital contributor to the region’s economy.


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