Jennifer Rennicks, SACE’s NC Liaison and Director of Policy and Communications, contributed to this post.
North Carolina has been a lightning rod for controversy over the past few months with its passage of the anti-transgender “bathroom bill,” House Bill 2, as well as litigation in federal courts over gerrymandered congressional districts and new voter ID laws. While the media and pundits have been totally consumed with the bathroom bill, gerrymandered districts and voter ID laws, anti-renewable energy forces have launched a secret plan to kill wind energy and solar power in North Carolina.
North Carolina’s Senate Bill 843 was introduced recently and, if implemented, would flush the state’s vibrant renewable energy industry down the toilet. In 2015, North Carolina ranked 3rd in the nation for total solar installed due in large part to the 2007 state energy bill which included a Renewable Energy & Efficiency Portfolio Standard. When the anti-wind energy activists demanded that Chowan County, North Carolina, officials pass regulations that seem eerily similar to the egregious SB843, the county officials called the measures “preposterous.” Since the anti-clean energy activists failed at the local level, they’re working with state legislators to do their bidding.
North Carolina already has an exceptionally burdensome permitting process for wind farms. Now, the authors of SB843 seek to impose even more radical measures. The bill would require renewable energy developers to effectively go through multiple permitting processes, up to six-months prior to even submitting an official permit application. The bill prohibits wind farms or solar panels that could “create an ambient noise measurement exceeding 35 decibels”. That sound level is lower than the wind itself, or a bird chirping. Solar panels could be banned by this ridiculous sound limitation when rain hits the panels.
The bill would also strictly prohibit wind farms or solar farms within “one and one-half miles” of an adjacent property line. That setback would require a property owner to own over 4,500 acres to host a single wind turbine or solar panel array. There’s literally no good reason to apply such an arbitrary setback, especially when no other energy industry in the state (coal, natural gas, or nuclear) has setbacks or sound limitations as extreme. In fact, state laws require only 200 feet to the property line for hazardous waste landfills and only 500 feet for swine waste lagoons.
SB 483 has the signs of involvement from John Droz, Jr., a known anti-wind activist in North Carolina with some ties to the Koch brothers anti-renewable energy activities.
If it looks like a renewable energy ban and sounds like a renewable energy ban, it’s a ban – not a regulation. If North Carolina wants to continue growing its vibrant renewable energy market, the legislature should dismiss proposals like this one.