North Carolina regulators approved on Tuesday an application by a U.S. subsidiary of Spanish power company Iberdrola (IBE.MC: Quote) to build a 300-megawatt wind farm in the state’s northeast.
If built, the wind farm located on 20,000 acres (8,000 hectares) of scrubland, would be the first commercial scale wind project in the state.
The project, named Desert Wind Power for the flat, agricultural region where it would be located, was proposed by Portland, Oregon-based Iberdrola Renewables Inc.
A 300-megawatt wind farm would be enough to power between 55,000 to 70,000 North Carolina homes with electricity.
Iberdrola has built more than 40 large U.S. wind farms over the past decade and coastal North Carolina is considered one of the choicest locations for wind turbines along the U.S. East Coast.
Iberdrola is considering other parts of the state for development potential if it can successfully develop the Desert Wind site.
“North Carolina, in particular the area where we’re looking, meets the criteria we look for in any project,” Iberdrola Renewable spokesman Paul Copelman said.
“People haven’t seen these before, they’re new to the state, and that inevitably raises questions on what it means to operate a wind farm,” he said.
The approval is the first of several regulatory steps for the project, which could begin construction as early as late 2011.
Among other issues, Iberdrola will have to assure authorities that the estimated 150 wind turbines that would be erected as part of the facility do not interfere with wildlife habitats, bird migration patters or military flight routes.
The project could potentially benefit from a federal cash grant that would cover 30 percent of the cost. (Reporting by Jim Brumm; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman)
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