ELIZABETH CITY – Construction of a massive wind farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties looks to be starting soon.
Local officials on Monday said Desert Wind developer Iberdrola Renewables planned to finally start building the wind farm next week.
The company, based in Portland, Ore., proposed in early 2011 building up to 150 turbines, each nearly 600 feet tall, across 22,000 acres of what’s known as the “desert” area of Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. The wind farm’s been delayed for years, primarily because the company has struggled to find someone to purchase the energy created by the project.
That delay should be almost over, Wayne Harris, director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission, said Monday. Harris said he’s working to schedule a groundbreaking ceremony for the project, and has invited Gov. Pat McCrory to attend.
Though the governor often attends groundbreakings for projects with major economic impacts, a spokesman for the governor couldn’t confirm Monday whether he’d attend.
Iberdrola also isn’t setting anything in stone.
Company spokesman Paul Copleman said construction will not start until Iberdrola has a secured a power purchaser.
That still hasn’t happened yet, though he said the company remains in “active discussions” – he would not go so far as to say “final negotiations” – with a power purchaser.
Though Iberdrola hopes to start the project soon, Copleman would not commit to a specific start date.
Copleman also declined to say how many turbines Iberdrola would immediately build. In discussions with Pasquotank County commissioners, project developer Craig Poff has suggested the project could be built in phases if that is what’s required to keep it economically feasible.
Harris wasn’t the only local official talking Monday about the project soon getting underway.
Mayor Joe Peel, who kicked off his campaign for re-election on Monday, told supporters there would be a groundbreaking for Desert Wind next week and that the governor would attend. He mentioned the project as good economic news for Elizabeth City, claiming it promises to create hundreds of short-term construction jobs and potentially bolster future wind power development in the region.
Asked later about Iberdrola officials not committing to a groundbreaking date, Peel said there may have been miscommunication with Harris, and apologized for the mix-up.
Though Iberdrola is focused on construction this month, it can break ground up to Sept. 10, according to Pasquotank Planning Director Shelley Cox. That’s when the company’s zoning permit extension with the county is set to expire, she said.
As long as some construction begins before Sept. 10, Cox said, the company may choose to delay actually building turbines at the project site.
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