Editorial: Region joins rush to embrace wind energy

The Virginian-Pilot editorial

With a unanimous vote in support of developing offshore wind near Virginia’s coast, the city of Chesapeake took another step toward a better future.

The City Council wisely joined other local government bodies and acted with the strong support of its residents in pledging its support for this practical type of renewable energy with real potential in this area. The cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission are among groups that have taken similar actions.

There’s no question that we — families, industry, the military — will need plentiful and reliable sources of energy in the years ahead to preserve America’s way of life.

But what is the best way to provide that energy? Clearly throwing our collective resources into the pursuit of carbon-based fuels such as coal, oil and gas — which are in dwindling supply — is not the sensible way to proceed.

It’s not just that continued reliance on these non-renewable fuels is simply prolonging the inevitable, although that’s certainly the case. Renewable fuels are our future, and the governments, military strategists, entrepreneurs and manufacturers that are leading the way in their development will have a decided advantage.

Dependence on increasingly scarce resources threatens our national security as well as our economic future.

There are other considerations. It’s all too well known that extracting fossil fuels damages the environment and burning them, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the process, does even more harm. It’s a double whammy.

And for those of us who live in Hampton Roads, where sea-level rise and more intense storms related to climate change threaten, the environmental repercussions are especially critical.

For all these reasons, plus the specter of an oil spill polluting the waters and beaches — with potential dire effects on the region’s economy and its military operations — the idea of drilling off Virginia’s shores is appalling.

But the idea of turbines to harness the area’s unlimited winds to make clean energy — energy that won’t contribute to climate change and rising seas — is attractive.

It’s also entirely feasible, as is the prospect of solar, another source of green energy that’s abundant here. No, wind and solar generated power won’t meet all our needs immediately, but if governments and energy companies concentrate more efforts in that direction, the potential is great.

Just across the state line, counties in northeastern North Carolina are seeing real progress in developing green energy.

Currituck County — which has two solar farms, one near Moyock and one at Shawboro — recently lifted a moratorium on new solar energy facilities after approving new guidelines. The noise and activity of construction had generated some complaints among neighbors, as happens with any new development.

But, the solar farms, once in place, cause few problems.

Not only do they generate clean energy; they also provide a source of income that helps farmers keep most of their land in production rather than selling it for residential development.

Neighboring Pasquotank and Perquimans counties are home to the Amazon Wind Farm, with 104 turbines capable of powering 61,000 homes. The operator of that wind farm is moving ahead with plans to develop an offshore wind project near Kitty Hawk. There’s also the possibility of a large solar farm being developed near Elizabeth City in Pasquotank. Like Hampton Roads, Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County face serious disruption from rising seas, giving them an added incentive to promote cleaner energy.

There will inevitably be some opponents of clean energy development. In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers tried to get President Donald Trump to block the wind farm, saying it would interfere with military radar in the Hampton Roads area. But the Pentagon said the wind farm posed no threat to national security.

The opponents are turning their backs on a more sensible and sustainable future.

Chesapeake is right to support wind and other cleaner energy. All of Virginia should do what it can to not only join but become a leader in this movement toward a brighter future.