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Wind energy: Turbines will be visible from the shore

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

All of the 885 square miles of ocean being considered for wind turbines between Winyah Bay and Little River will be in conflict with a resolution passed by the Pawleys Island Town Council in 2012 opposing placement of machinery in a location that is visible on the horizon.

Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri told the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s offshore renewable energy task force meeting in Litchfield this week that the town opposes “the placement of wind turbines where they are visible day or night from 30 feet above the mean high water mark in any point within the town.”

Brian Krevor, environmental

protection specialist for BOEM, said the turbines would likely have to be 24 nautical miles offshore to meet the requirements of the town’s resolution. The Grand Strand study area for wind energy is comprised of an area 46 miles long and extending from 3 miles to 23 miles offshore. Test towers will be 300 feet tall.

Mayor Bill Otis met with the agency earlier. “I was shocked when I saw the grids where they were,” he said. He called the plan “totally detrimental to the property owners.”

That does not mean the town’s resolution will not be considered. “We are in the very early stages of offshore wind development,” said James Bennett, chief of the Office of Renewable Energy Programs for BOEM. “All concerns will be fully vetted. He said the process is “very long, very deliberative.”

The Grand Strand study area is one of four identified as having potential to produce electricity from wind. The Cape Romain area runs from 3 to 11 nautical miles offshore and extends 32 miles south of Winyah Bay. Two other areas, Charleston and Winyah Bay, are both about 41 square miles and further from shore. The Winyah Bay area is 35 miles east of North Island.

The task force was established in 2012 to review concerns about establishing wind farms on the ocean. Consideration will be given to visual impact, fishing grounds, right whale critical habitat areas and places with heavy boat traffic.

One hope for Pawleys Island’s resolution to move the turbines further offshore is its birds. Sensitive areas of the Cape Romain study area have been eliminated because of birds flying as far as 6 nautical miles offshore. John Stanton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the nearly endangered black capped petrel flies further offshore. South Carolina is also home to overwintering sea ducks, he said.

Bob Perry of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources said it was important to know where the electrical cables from the turbines would come to shore. Casey Reeves, project coordinator for BOEM, said it was too early in the process to consider the connections. Perry, a former DNR agent in Georgetown, said he disagreed.

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