SAXAPAHAW – Wind energy is the future, according to the Handy Village Institute of Saxapahaw.
The Institute hosted a discussion about wind farms, home wind turbines, and the future of clean energy Tuesday night at the Eddy Pub, where guest speaker Kevin Long, an employee of Buckner Cos., spoke about helping construct the 104-turbine Amazon Wind Farm in Elizabeth City – the first of its kind in North Carolina.
The project, which is part of Amazon’s goal to use only renewable energy, will create enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes.
Long, who handles the cranes needed to erect wind turbines, has seen first-hand how they can positively affect a community by creating jobs, boosting tourism, and simply making the landscape more attractive.
The farmers in Elizabeth City are compensated for any crop loss that could be caused by cranes pushing down soil as they erect the wind turbines. They also get a percentage of the energy produced by the turbine for their own use.
Originally from the wind-dependent state of Iowa, Long says he’s never heard a farmer complain about the construction of a wind farm on his property. However, plenty of other obstacles stand in the way of large-scale projects like Amazon’s.
Deborah Amaral, founder and managing director of the Handy Village Institute, and her husband Christopher Carter, director of operations, elaborated on those challenges.
In addition to the common arguments that wind turbines kill massive amounts of birds, cast shadows and make too much noise – all of which Long says are false or exaggerated – Carter says the main reason there aren’t more wind farms in North Carolina is that Duke Energy is putting its money elsewhere.
“The reason we have [Elizabeth City] is because it’s outside of Duke’s territory. It’s part of Virginia’s territory,” Carter said.
Carter believes clean energy is the way of the future and has devoted his time to proving how simple generating electricity with wind and solar energy can be, especially on a small, residential scale, without giving up the comforts people are accustomed to.
CARTER AND AMARAL host a workshop each year for people who are interested in living completely or partially “off the grid.”
During the six-day workshop, participants learn how to make small wind turbines from scratch that can be used to generate electricity for a homestead or farm setting, as well as a host of other skills. This year, it will be March 20–25 at the Institute’s workshop in Saxapahaw.
Carter has been living off solar energy since 1992, and a combination of solar and wind energy since 1997. He says the biggest challenge is learning how to adapt your energy use to the weather, but the benefits greatly outweigh that.
For example, when the rest of the community is out of power because of a storm, neighbors come to Carter’s and Amaral’s home to use spigots and charge batteries. Moreover, Carter says, the wind turbine is a source of pride for him.
“It’s fun to sit out here and watch the wind turbine spin. When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing you get a happy feeling that you’re getting your electricity in an environmentally friendly way, and you’re in charge of your own life,” Carter said.
THE INSTITUTE’S NEXT goal is to create a group for people who want to construct and maintain wind turbines in the community, but first they have to generate the interest and educate people on the importance of making clean energy a priority.
“We’ve held off going to clean energy for a pretty long time. We’ve allowed ourselves to be noncommittal about climate change, and about really how much damage fossil fuels are creating, so now we have to move really quickly,” Carter said.
The Handy Village Institute in Saxapahaw was founded in August 2014. To find out more about it or register for the March workshop, visit http://www.handyvillage.com.
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