Local News

Winds of Change Blow on N.C. Coast

Posted May 29, 2007 2:25 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2010 8:54 a.m. EDT

— Two things are certain on North Carolina’s coast – the wind and the waves. Plus if you listen closely, you can hear the whir of the wind at work.

The National Park Service is using a wind turbine to generate electricity for the Coquina Beach bathhouse just south of Nags Head.

“You’re looking at 15 to 20 years on the payback. But if you’re planning to be there awhile, the investment makes sense,” said Jeff Brooks, of N.C. GreenPower.

The 2.5-kilowatt wind turbine produces enough power to operate the bathhouse, and any leftover power is released into the local power grid. Officials said the power generated is small, but the implications are tremendous.

“I think the Coquina wind turbine, while small in capacity, is a huge step forward for wind power in North Carolina,” Brooks said.

For beachgoers like Ann Hollowell, the wind can sometimes be a curse. She spent the day hunkered down between two dunes trying to block the windy chill coming off the water, but she knows that constant wind can also be a blessing.

“As an alternative energy source, I think the windmill is a great idea. I think they should line the beach with them if it would do the trick,” she said. “There’s always wind from somewhere, (we should) absolutely take advantage of it.”

At Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the idea is catching on. George Barnes, superintendent of the park, said the idea just makes sense.

“Jockey’s Ridge was formed by the wind," he said. "The winds are never not blowing out here."

Within a year, Barnes hopes to be operating at least one wind turbine to help generate power for the visitors center. He said the center gets 1.2 million visitors a year, and he hopes that project will help spread the word about wind power.

“It’s bound to reach some of them,” he said. “Get people thinking.”

Tourists Ariana Sclarancis and Rick Medina said they would not want to see so many turbines as to obscure the scenery at Coquina Beach, but perhaps the time has come to seriously find new ways to fulfill future power needs.

“It makes sense you would have something like that in this area,” Sclarancis said.

“It makes sense, considering the wind keeps blowing the towel in my face. There’s going to be a lot of wind here,” Medina said.

The Jockey’s Ridge wind turbine is expected to cost around $12,000.