Military bases are a vital part of life in eastern North Carolina. The sound of Freedom is not only overhead regularly, but the bases are staffed with our friends, neighbors and family members. The military expenditures are a vital lifeline for our communities.


It is also not a new effort by local government and elected officials to try to enact laws, ordinances and safeguards to help our local military bases continue to operate. North Carolina has one of the largest military footprints of any state in the country. The military is the second largest industry in North Carolina behind agriculture.


One of the reasons military bases are so prevalent in North Carolina is because we have good bombing, flight and training ranges for pilots, said Craven County Commissioner ET Mitchell.


We are for finding alternative energy sources but our top priority should be to support and protect our local bases. Efforts by local legislators like Sen. Harry Brown and Sen. Jim Perry, both Republicans in eastern North Carolina, are not an anti-green energy attempt. Local towns and counties have passed tall structure ordinances and other measures to help bases like Camp Lejeune, Seymour Johnson and Cherry Point should a Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, occur.


“No one is against sustainable energy or expanding them,” Mitchell said. “There is a need for more of them. This has to be managed carefully so you don’t have unintended consequences.”


Opponents to the bill have suggested that the Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse and the Federal Aviation Administration already work to prevent conflicts with windmills and military training, so no specific statewide law is necessary.


“It’s also a safety issue, tall structures clutter the flight space and it impacts the safety of flight,” said Mitchell, who is a Navy veteran, and serves on a military affairs community and is a board member for ACT, Allies for Cherry Points Tomorrow. “We have military, commercial and private pilots all sharing the same airspace.”


Mitchell said, it is not a clear and easy process, but there should be more coordination and a little more to protect bases.


Perry told us back in May 2019 that it’s not an issue of bases working with developers to mitigate potential hazards during potential development of windmill near bases but positioning our bases in the best possible ways during a BRAC.


“We have to adopt policies that minimize the risk of those bases closing down,” Perry said in a news release. “We are willing to continue listening to stakeholders on how best to protect the military and provide opportunities for wind development.”


Anyone who has worked with a military affairs committee in eastern North Carolina can tell you how competitive states are when it comes to securing military bases. The potential benefits of a windmill near a military base is far outweighed by the need to ensure local bases have the strongest hand if there is a BRAC.


There are other states in the mid-West that would love to have more military resources located in their markets, and there are ways states can apply pressure to tip the scales in their favor.


The Department of Defense supports green energy and while they will never say no to tall structures around bases, we still believe it is important to advocate for additional protections.