With a February 2015 announcement that a large section of the ocean off the Kitty Hawk shoreline would be available for commercial wind energy development, North Carolina moves towards the top of the list of potential energy production from a renewable resource. The Kitty Hawk site is one of three sites off the North Carolina coast identified by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The site, located 26 nautical miles offshore, will be barely visible from the beach.
Any application of commercial wind energy is a number of years away, the permitting process is complicated and time consuming, and any project of this size is extremely expensive.
It should not come as a surprise, though. Perhaps the size and potential may have caught some people off guard, but coastal North Carolina has always been known for its winds. It was, after all, the reason the Wright Brothers came to the Outer Banks to learn about flight.
Although there aren’t any Outer Banks commercial ventures at this point in time, there are a few wind turbines that have become a part of our landscape.
Outer Banks Brewing Station, Kill Devil Hills
The first wind powered brewpub in the nation, the turbine in the backyard of the Brewing Station quickly became a landmark. It’s difficult to imagine now, but owners Aubrey Davis and Eric Reece fought an uphill battle with the local town council to get their project approved. The results of their efforts have been a popular hangout with great food, amazing beer and an inspiring social conscience.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Nags Head
The 60’ pole with the spinning blades that’s located near the Visitor’s Center at Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a functioning wind turbine. The design of the pole is a monopole, requiring no guy-wires. This efficient design also makes it safer for birds.
Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head
Probably the most spectacular demonstration of what wind energy can do are the three Bergey Excel-S turbines that can supply up to 50% of the power needed to run the pier. The turbines are actually just one part of a remarkably energy efficient system with solar cells covering one of the shade pavilions and a closed-loop, geothermal, HVAC system that heats and air conditions the pier house.
Coquina Beach, Nags Head
In 2007, NC Green Power constructed a wind turbine at Coquina Beach in South Nags Head. A fairly small turbine, it is connected to the power grid and also powers the restroom facilities at the north end of the parking lot. Coquina Beach is part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Dominion Power, Demonstration Project, Woods Road, Kitty Hawk
An interesting demonstration site, Dominion Power has placed three wind turbines on the edge of their property as a demonstration micro grid project. The project is using two vertical axis turbines, a helix turbine and a horizontal turbine—which is the type most people associate with wind energy. Located close to some relatively tall trees, it’s hard to say how effective or how much wind energy is being generated. Observationally the helix turbine seems to be operating the most, although that could be because of tower placement.