by Brittany Raymer
Digital Writer & Editor
Green energy policy is all the rage with Washington DC and Europe, but it’s storms like Hurricane Ian that can show the limits of its usefulness. As North Carolina endures the bracing winds and rains of the deadly storm, will the power of Ian reveal the flaws in pursuing renewable power like wind and solar over gas, coal and nuclear?
Hurricane Ian has devastated Florida and is now churning its way through the Carolinas. Though it’s been downgraded into a tropical storm, it’s strength and power will still be felt throughout the coast and far inland.
Duke Energy is already addressing outages impacting about 40,000 North Carolinians, and other electricity providers are also scrambling to get the power back on throughout the state.
The impact from the tropical storm is far from over, but the path of the storm and its impact raises some serious questions about the future use of green energy in North Carolina.
Ironically, the storm is skirting by an area that Gov. Cooper has chosen for a future wind turbine farm. In an agreement with a North Carolinian and French company, the state will allow the development of a wind turbine farm 20 miles off the state’s southeastern coast near Wilmington in an area deemed an “empty ocean,” as apparently wildlife only matters when a company is building a pipeline and not a wind turbine farm.
There will eventually be an untold number of 800 foot or taller turbines dotting the coastline helping to power potentially 500,000 homes, or will it?
Looking at the disaster Hurricane Ian has wrought onto Florida, South and North Carolina, it’s unclear how wind turbines based in the ocean would help the state in any sense during a major storm.
From just a practically standpoint, the winds are probably too powerful for the blades to function, so in the event of a hurricane they would likely be turned off. And if the storm is damaging enough, how are power company officials going to address broken blades or other issues when ports and boats have been destroyed?
A blade that falls in the water cannot be returned to function on the turbine, nor can it apparently be recycled.
In a report earlier this week, Locke’s Jon Sanders pointed out a paper that analyzed the impact of hurricanes on the suggested coastal wind turbine farms, which determined nearly half would be wiped out within a 20-year period.
When it comes to solar panels, the jury is still out on whether that technology, which North Carolina is also pursuing, would be able to withstand the winds of a strong hurricane.
Chariot Energy, a solar panel farm company, admits that most solar panels are probably unable to sustain the winds and avoid the damage that can be brought by a major hurricane. Given that these energy devices are located on roofs or on the ground, debris can be a serious problem, except in some exceptional circumstances. So even if the system can survive the winds, debris could damage and render it unusable.
Green energy may be seen as the future, but it’s unclear if it can yet withstand some of mother nature’s most powerful forces.
For more about the potentially negative impact of the proposed wind turbine farms, read the John Locke Foundation’s report Big Blow: Offshore Wind Power’s Devastating Costs and Impacts on North Carolina.