By Dr. Leo Goff, Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Every active duty and retired military professional knows operational integrity can make or break a mission and absolutely nothing replaces training in real-life scenarios. It is something the military does not compromise.
After serving for 30 years in the U.S. Navy, I now work with a group of some of the highest ranking retired military leaders in the world to educate the public about energy and our national security. I was dumbfounded when I read The Jacksonsville Daily News article titled, “Protecting N.C’s Military.” In my view, Sen. Harry Brown is putting up road blocks to free enterprise while infringing on the property rights of rural North Carolinians in a misguided attempt to “protect” the military — despite the Pentagon and Department of Defense (DoD) repeatedly stating that wind projects and military can co-exist without compromising operational integrity. While I recognize Brown’s desire to keep military jobs and their federal pay checks in North Carolina under the guise of operations, the military has not asked for protection or reinforcements in this matter and has a working process in place to ensure military operations are not compromised by encroachment of any private ventures near its bases, including wind turbines.
The military has adamantly stated its ability to coexist with wind turbines multiple times this year. In the (1/15/17), the Daily Advance reported comments from Katisha Draughn-Fraguada, a Naval public affairs officer who explained the “Navy agreed in 2014 to let the developer build 104 turbines,” a position they maintain, and had “not contacted the N. C. General Assembly about concerns with the project.” I encourage Brown and other key leaders like Senators Jackson, Tillman, Berger and Rabon to take the time as Rep. Bob Steinburg (Chowan) did to learn all the facts before volunteering to protect the military.
Thorough risk analysis
As part of the FAA approval process of energy projects over 200 feet in height, the military and the DoD Siting Clearinghouse assess each project for its effect on radar, air navigation and military readiness. In the case of the Amazon wind project, the original 150- turbine project was reduced to 104 turbines as a result of the working process. Simply put – approvals are not granted if operations or national security is placed at risk. The military’s evaluation process uses science-based analysis and identifies the mission impact to prevent adverse effects on military readiness and operations. The process is conducted transparently, apolitically, and without concern for local economic or other impacts outside military missions. Make no mistake, the DoD is fully informed about projects like the wind projects slated for North Carolina and will not approve them if they pose a risk to operations.
Military operations co-exist near wind farms
Wind turbines are already located near military bases around the country without impacting military operations. For example, there are more than 600 wind turbines operating near Travis Air Force Base in California, and some of them have been there for more than a decade. The nearest wind turbine there is less than 4.2 miles from the radar.
Bigger picture of alternative energy
Having a resilient electric grid, with power generated from distributed sources, lowers our national vulnerabilities to grid attack or failure. Accordingly, it is an objective of the military to see more distributed energy sources, like wind, that will increase the resiliency of the commercial electrical grid. Improving our electrical generation while minimizing or mitigating any adverse impacts on military operations and readiness, makes us safer. Projects such as the Amazon Wind Farm US East do not degrade national security, and neither will other wind projects that will come online in North Carolina. In fact, these outlets add resiliency to our energy production, which makes us more secure. Moreover, with wind turbine technician being one of the fast growing jobs in the U.S., these projects provide a lucrative opportunity for veterans who transition from active duty.
Dr. Goff served as a Captain in the U.S. Navy and Pentagon leadership for 30 years and now leads a group of 16 retired generals and admirals focused on the economic and national security implications of energy policies and practices.