Retired Fighter Pilot Responds to “Fact Free” Attacks on Wind Farm in NC

This blog was written by Sarah Gilliam, former Communications Coordinator at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | February 28, 2017 | North Carolina, Wind
As a native North Carolinian and self-professed clean energy enthusiast, I have really been scratching my head lately over recent pushback on our state’s first large-scale wind farm. To catch you up on the issue, the online retail giant Amazon recently flipped the switch on a 208-megawatt wind farm, located outside of Elizabeth City in eastern North Carolina. As this $400 million dollar project was nearing completion last month, a group of 10 state legislators from North Carolina sent a letter to Gen. John Kelly, now President Trump’s appointed Homeland Security Department Secretary, asking him to halt the project. Their main concern was the “industrial wind energy interference with the North Carolina-Virginia Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar (ROTHR) facility.” Once I read that, I immediately thought back to a highly informative webinar SACE co-hosted last summer with Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby, who happens to be a retired U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot in South Carolina. Fast forward a few weeks when the Amazon wind farm goes live, and I was able to catch up with Puck to pick his brain about this new wind farm and the controversy surrounding it.

Before we really started digging down in to the specifics of this wind farm project, Puck wanted to address a one of the questionable claims in the letter sent to Gen. Kelly: “…due to the political correctness focus of the current [Obama] administration, [Dept. of Defense] entered into an ‘Agreement’ to allow this intrusion.” Puck responded strongly with these words: “Bottom line: The U.S. military is never, ever going to succumb to political correctness. And, oh by the way, our decisions will always be based on facts; not ideology.”  That statement really shaped the rest of our conversation and Puck didn’t waste anytime getting down to his four main points he wanted to address:

(1) From a technical standpoint, Puck says, “The wind turbines are not going to present an issue when it comes to ROTHR’s operational effectiveness. This is based on the Navy’s operational analysis that occurred after the original MIT study highlighting the core concerns surfaced. If anyone thinks the military doesn’t have the courage to call it like it is – based on facts – they’re living in an alternate universe.”

(2) From a training perspective, “If tall structures were an impediment to pilot training, we wouldn’t have cell towers either. As an aviator, things get built, you adjust, and you just get on with it,” said Puck. This made me laugh a little but he doubled down by saying “It’s just not a big deal.” See SACE’s blog on other tall structures like bridges and how they relate to clean energy.

(3) From a national security perspective, Puck was adamant that “We have to address the fact that we, as a nation, are $3.6 trillion in the hole when it comes to our infrastructure. We need to start building for the 21st century…and that doesn’t mean more high carbon-intensive highways, airports, and coal power plants. We need more low-carbon systems – such as new mobility and renewable energy systems (to name a few). Specific to energy, we need to have a wide portfolio of renewable and resilient energy production and distribution systems to alleviate the risks and vulnerabilities of our current centralized, archaic, and brittle national energy system – which, oh by the way, is hyper-vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Just look at the results of Hurricane Sandy.” See our blog on how existing wind turbines did during Hurricane Sandy here.

(4) From an economic standpoint, Puck noted that clean energy “is a job generating machine that will help the U.S. be globally competitive. It makes all the sense in the world and wind energy is a perfect fit to create new  manufacturing, service, and retail job opportunities for a whole new generation of Americans.” Learn more about how wind energy benefits the Southeast here.

Hard to argue with any of Puck’s points, which was kind of the point of this blog. The Amazon wind farm is such a good example of how clean energy projects get overly politicized. As clean energy advocates navigate the new political landscape coming online with President Trump and his Cabinet, whose views on clean energy are still in question, we must challenge ourselves to lift up the less obvious benefits of solar, wind and energy efficiency, like national security and manufacturing jobs. I’m thankful to have allies, like Puck, standing up for the clean energy revolution.

To learn a more about Puck Mykleby and his impressive career serving the country, we offer this short bio:

Mark “Puck” Mykleby was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps following his graduation from the United States Naval Academy in 1987.  He was designated a naval aviator in April 1990 and as a qualified F/A-18 pilot in December 1990.  From January 1991 to May 2006, he served in five fleet fighter squadrons and performed numerous operational squadron billets to include Commanding Officer.  He is a graduate of Marine Weapons and Tactics Instructor School (WTI), the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Topgun), and the Allied Air Forces Central Europe’s Tactical Leadership Program (TLP).  Mark’s operational and combat experience includes numerous deployments (land-based and ship-borne) to the European, Pacific, and Southwest Asian theaters.

His staff experience includes serving as the George Washington Battle Group liaison officer to Joint Task Force-Southwest Asia (Eskan Village, Saudi Arabia) in 1997, serving as a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Staff Training Program (MSTP) instructor from 1999-2001, and serving as the Harry S. Truman Battle Group liaison officer to the NATO Combined Air Operations Center Five (CAOC-5) headquarters (Poggio Renautico, Italy) in January 2003.  In June 2007, Mark was assigned to the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) where he developed strategy for Special Operations Forces. From July 2009 until April 2011, he served as a special strategic assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  In that capacity, he co-authored with Navy Captain Wayne Porter A National Strategic Narrative, a concept and vision for a 21st Century grand strategy for the nation.

Mark retired from the Marine Corps in August 2011 and subsequently joined New America Foundation, serving as a senior fellow from August 2011 to August 2014.  From September 2014 to January 2017, Mark was the co-founder and Co-Director of Case Western Reserve University’s Strategic Innovation Lab where he continued his work on grand strategy and sustainability. While at Case Western, he co-authored, along with Patrick Doherty and Joel Makower, The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security and Sustainability in the 21st Century (St. Martin’s Press, June 2016) which lays out a business plan for America, born at the Pentagon, that embeds sustainability as a national strategic imperative.

Mark graduated from the United States Naval Academy with distinction in 1987.  He earned a Masters of Military Studies from the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in 1999.  In May 2007, he graduated from the Air War College with distinction and earned a Masters of Strategic Studies. Mark is currently the Co-Founder of Long Haul Capital Group, LLC; a company dedicated to creating sustainable, walkable, and healthy communities.

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