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U North Carolina To Pilot Coastal Wind Turbine Project

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has signed a contract with power company Duke Energy to place wind turbines along the Outer Banks as a demonstration project. The pilot project builds on a nine-month study completed in June 2009 by the university for the state that found North Carolina "well positioned to develop utility-scale wind energy production."

The demonstration turbines--up to three--may be the first such towers placed in water in the United States. The energy company will pay for the turbines and their installation, and the university will continue its research throughout the project.

"This project is a great example of how university research can expand our understanding of an issue--in this case, wind energy," said Chancellor Holden Thorp. "Then an industry partner like Duke Energy can use that research to do what they do best and develop this on a larger scale."

Researchers will study how to optimize the measurement and prediction of the wind resource, quantify ecological impacts, and demonstrate turbine performance in tropical storm conditions.

"We are looking forward to working with UNC and residents of the Outer Banks to determine if and how we can use wind energy on a larger scale," said Brett Carter, president of Duke Energy Carolinas. "Our company has experience developing land-based wind in other parts of the country, and we are excited about this pilot project and learning more about how we can use this renewable resource in our home state."

One aspect of the project that will be monitored is community feedback. Public forums about ocean-based turbines proposed for the coast of Cape Code in Massachusetts have generated vitriolic discussions in the communities where the installations have been planned. Complaints have focused on the danger the giant turbines pose to birds, as well as aesthetic, safety, and noise concerns.

"This project is the critical step that will determine the future of wind power off the Outer Banks," said North Carolina State Senator Marc Basnight. "It will allow for community feedback and collaboration, and it will be a very positive information-finding effort. People will be able to view the turbines working, and we will gain a greater understanding of how to use wind as a renewable energy source. What we learn from this project will chart the future of offshore wind energy for our state, and I am excited that the Outer Banks is a part of this effort."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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