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Local Tech Wire

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke Energy are teaming up for a wind turbine project that will be used to study the potential of wind as an alternative source for electricity.

Up to three towers will be constructed in Pamlico Sound.

Costs of the project were not disclosed, but Duke (NYSE: DUK) said it would pay for the towers and their installation.

The formal agreement comes two weeks after N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue and other state leaders gathered on the Outer Banks to discuss implications of the massive wind turbines in waters off the state’s coast.

UNC-CH also recently completed a study for the General Assembly that concluded the state was “well positioned” for large-scale wind power projects.

Duke has been among the most active utilities firms in the U.S. in harnessing wind power with several projects in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming. .Several other wind farms are under construction.

"Our company has experience developing land-based wind in other parts of the country, and we are excited about this pilot project and learning more about how we can use this renewable resource in our home state,” said Duke Energy Carolinas President Brett Carter.

According to UNC and Duke, the towers “may be the first” placed in U.S. coastal waters. Several European countries have embraced off-shore projects, but similar plans in the U.S. have triggered resistance. N.C. law also prohibits construction of wind towers on the state’s mountains.

"This project is a great example of how university research can expand our understanding of an issue – in this case, wind energy," said UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp in a statement. "Then an industry partner like Duke Energy can use that research to do what they do best and develop this on a larger scale."

Duke and other utilities in North Carolina are under state law mandates to produce a growing amount of energy from alternative sources in coming years.