State officials gave their approval today to build a 49-turbine wind farm in Eastern North Carolina that critics worry could cause bird kills of bald eagles as well as tundra swans and other migratory birds that like to roost nearby at the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge when visiting the state for the winter.
The N.C. Utilities Commission said it had no legal authority to deny approval to the Pantego Wind Energy Facility, which would spread over 11,000 acres in Beaufort County. But the state commission said the project can't go ahead until it receives state and federal environmental permits and meets other strict conditions, conditions that could delay the project for months.
The Pantego wind farm, proposed by Chicago-based Invenergy, would feature turbines reaching nearly 500 feet into the air to the tip of the blade. The blades could achieve rotational speeds well exceeding 100 miles per hour, which is a chief concern to naturalists and environmentalists who wanted more research on bird migratory patterns before approving the project.
The commissioners, who are appointed by the state governor, wrote that weighing the environmental risks and benefits of green energy "is at times a delicate risk, one that might require some risk of change in the natural habitat of wildlife."
But the commission said the Pantego project demonstrated "proven environmental benefits of reducing fossil fuel generation."