Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Bird and Wildlife Use and Fishing Activity in Eastern Pamlico Sound and the Coastal Ocean in Northern Raleigh Bay and Eastern Onslow Bay

Funded by Duke Energy

In collaboration with Charles H. Peterson, Stephen R. Fegley, Harvey Seim (UNC-CH Marine Sciences), and Chris Taylor (NOAA)

In June of 2009, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) completed a  feasibility study of wind power development over the waters of Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds and the coastal ocean off North Carolina.  The study addressed a wide breadth of issues including: the available wind resource; ecological impacts on birds and wildlife; potential use conflicts with other human activities such as commercial fishing; preemption of air space by military uses; sensitive habitats; cultural resources; bottom character and its suitability for alternative turbine foundations; positive synergies between the presence of wind turbines, their shafts, and rock anti-scour aprons and reef-associated invertebrates, fish, and birds; engineering challenges; policy and legal issues; utility connectivity to the power grid; and economics.  A synthesis of these multi-disciplinary analyses done via a geographical information system (GIS) to overlay multiple separate suitability layers revealed that a region of eastern Pamlico Sound and large areas of the coastal shelf in Onslow and Raleigh Bays are suitable potential locations for commercial wind farms.  Power capacity reached 30 to 35% in the best areas of eastern Pamlico Sound, whereas the wind resource was better, with power capacity exceeded 40% over large portions of coastal Raleigh Bay and Onslow Bay.  The report also concluded that unanswered questions about wind resources, engineering, environmental impacts, utility integration, policy, and other aspects of wind farms could only come from establishing pilot wind turbines and using them to test out alternatives.  The report also recommended that the area of eastern Pamlico Sound be used for such a pilot demonstration project because the relative ease of access in the sound would provide much greater capability for engineers and scientists to explore feasibility questions than in a coastal ocean location.

Based on the UNC study and recommendation, Duke Energy established a partnership with UNC to pursue the necessary research to build a demonstration project of 1-3 pilot wind turbines in the recommended area of eastern Pamlico Sound, with funding for small-boat surveys of birds, wildlife, and human uses during January 2010 through January 2011.