UNC may have first wind turbines in U.S. waters with funding from Duke Energy

Wind turbine research is moving right along in North Carolina and we have UNC and Duke Energy to thank for it.


In a pilot project designed to harness the power of the ocean breezes along North Carolina’s coast, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke Energy announced they have signed a contract to place up to three demonstration wind turbines in the Pamlico Sound.

The pilot project builds on a nine-month study completed in June 2009 by UNC for the N.C. General Assembly which found “North Carolina is well positioned to develop utility-scale wind energy production.”

These demonstration turbines may be the first turbines placed in water in the United States, providing UNC with a valuable opportunity for ongoing research about issues raised in its coastal wind study. Duke Energy will pay for the turbines and their installation. UNC will continue its research throughout the project.

According to Reuters, they have chosen Pamlico Sound because the state controls those waters. The federal government is not ready to issue permits for waters it controls. Waters offshore have more favorable wind conditions, but the study would have to wait for a year or more to receive a permit. UNC plans to have this study operational within one year.

Duke, which has several land-based turbine farms, is in the process of buying the turbines now. Duke spokesperson Tim Pettit said the company is interested in whether utility scale turbine farms are commercially viable when located on water.

It sounds like the University, the state government and Duke Energy are doing what they can to communicate with residents.

In September, Gov. Beverly Perdue, N.C. Sen. Marc Basnight, N.C. Rep. Tim Spear and representatives from UNC and Duke Energy held a meeting on the Outer Banks to get community feedback on the pilot project. Over the coming weeks and months, UNC and Duke Energy will continue to seek out community comments and answer questions about the project.

“This project is the critical step that will determine the future of wind power off the Outer Banks,” Basnight said. “It will allow for community feedback and collaboration, and it will be a very positive information-finding effort. People will be able to view the turbines working and we will gain a greater understanding of how to use wind as a renewable energy source. What we learn from this project will chart the future of offshore wind energy for our state, and I am excited that the Outer Banks is a part of this effort.”

I'm sure someone can poke holes in this public-private venture, but it should prove a pretty good partnership as long as Duke Energy doesn't have ownership of the study results. The study should provide the public with information that is in the public domain. Duke Energy saves money on research and development, UNC receives funding for an important study and North Carolina is a leader in alternative energy research.

The full press release from Duke Energy can be found here.
For information on the UNC Coastal Wind Study go here.


It sounds like a win/win

It's good they're getting feedback from the community too, it seems that has been a hurdle no one has tried jumping willingly before.

A positive step

I was happy to see this news - and especially happy to see UNC's involvement.

I am mostly pleased

with this. The "mostly" comes (mostly) from my concern about how construction costs will be managed. Duke Energy will be able to recoup its construction costs via rate increases, just like it's attempting to do for Cliffside. And even though that coal monster will cost well over $2 billion, all we're going to hear about is how a $20 million wind project caused our rates to go up.

That said, the timing on this is pretty good for us. Thanks to the recession, a lot of the potential financing for wind projects has dried up, meaning the demand for turbines (and the cost) has dropped temporarily, and buying them now will possibly save a couple of million for each turbine.

As Tone Loc said, "Let's do it."

Loal Power for Local Users

You are still dealing with the, production then transmission, of energy as a solution. It cost over 1mm dollars per mile to connect from the power source to the main transmission lines. I never much liked seeing the oil rigs off the coast of California, and I assume the Carolina coastal residents might not be thrilled with their new metal monsters of the sea with their attached tails. Just like us mountain folk don't want wind farms in our back yard to send energy to the flatlanders.

This is assuming nobody will have any trouble with Duke erecting high voltage lines over their neighborhood. Industry studies have convincingly proved, beyond any doubt, there is no linkage between these transmission lines and human cancer. The real issue might be the amount of energy leakage there is from transmission lines.

Look first to generate and save energy with every home, office and building. If the government issued a mandates for solar,wind,insulation, etc (like they did for ethanol use) then offered a tax credit or direct payments to every landlord to erect direct energy solar panels, home wind turbines; http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/five-home-wind-turbines-you-can-actually-buy.php and good old fashion insulation; there would be two results.

1. The economy will grow, it will take a small army of manufactures, trucks, installers, accountants, inspectors, to wire up and insulate every building over they next decade.

2. We will get very close to energy independence.

Think lots and lots of small projects with an excellent local economic multiplier effect. Behemoth projects are are an past centuries construct, just as transmission lines which were introduced in the late 1800's.

We are a decade away from fuel cells for cars, but once we have a technology like a fuel cell then home energy production will be based on these independent clean energy generators. No transmission lines.

If we build out these new wind farms, with all the transmission lines just before we transfer to a new energy base, we will squander trillions of dollars on outdated technologies.

The sounds great!

I live in Chapel Hill...I wonder if the electricity I use in my home will one day come from wind? I hope so.

Check out Amplify, youth driven community dedicated to changing society's dysfunctional approach to sexual health issues

One of NC's unique features is Pamlico Sound...

It almost sticks out on the ocean, but behind the Outer Banks barrier, makes it a fairly constant wind source. Especially during the day when peaks of electricity occurs, it should be a real plus. I don't know where the windmills will be located, but if closer to the Outer Banks, the inland population won't really see them unless they take a boat ride. It's a start to really getting some answers, instead of waiting for the rest of the world to supply our technology.

This is wonderful news

We have extremely viable wind resources, and we should take advantage of that. It beats the heck out of coal, and helps our NC economy.

Definitely a win-win.