State officials have approved a proposed 49-turbine wind farm in Eastern North Carolina that critics worry could kill migrating birds from the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge nearby.
The N.C. Utilities Commission said Thursday that it had no legal authority to reject the Pantego Wind Energy Facility, which would spread over 11,000 acres in Beaufort County. But the state commission said the wind farm can’t move ahead until it receives state and federal environmental permits and meets other strict conditions.
As it is, the wind project is delayed by one year, with the earliest possible date it could be operating and generating electricity now put back to late 2013.
The project, 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 exceeding 100 miles per hour in air space congested with birds and bats – a chief concern to naturalists and environmentalists who wanted more research on bird flight patterns before allowing the project to proceed.
At risk are several species, including some 100,000 tundra swans that migrate to the wildlife refuge each winter and forage on nearby farms, an annual spectacle and tourist attraction.