EASTERN N.C. – Like many Southeastern states, North Carolina has not yet been part of the wind energy boom.
Nevertheless, the topic has been the topic of legislative tussles, concerns from environmentalists, concerns from those looking to protect military installations and others in recent years.
Here’s where the state stands on several facets of wind energy.
Legislation: Members of the General Assembly has shown significant skepticism – and some downright disapproval – of wind energy. Much of that doubt is, several Eastern N.C. lawmakers say, tied to how building out wind farms could affect the area’s military installations.
House Bill 589, in particular, became a touchpoint this summer after state Sen. Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, inserted an 18-month moratorium on new wind farms in the state and required a study to map areas where turbines would affect military training.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed the bill, but immediately addressed the controversy with an executive order.
Executive Order 11 called on the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to continue working on wind energy projects, completing necessary steps such as reviewing permits and reviewing potential sites.
The moratorium is effective until the end of 2018.
“I want wind energy facilities to come online quickly when this moratorium expires so our economy and our environment can continue to benefit,” Cooper wrote.
Onshore: Avangrid Renewables is operating the state’s first – and for now only – wind farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, near Elizabeth City.
The Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East project was built across 22,000 acres of fields, according to its website, allowing farmers to continue harvesting around the roughly 200-acre footprint of the wind project.
In total, the project includes 104 turbines, each of which stands 492 feet tall at the tallest point of the tallest blade. The turbines can generate 208 megawatts of power – enough, according to the company, to power 61,000 homes.
Energy from the project is delivered to the grid and powers Amazon Web Services data centers.
Offshore: Avangrid won the rights to the first project off the N.C. coast during a March 16 auction, paying just over $9 million for the rights to a 122,405-acre site roughly 25 miles off the Outer Banks.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which controls the offshore leasing process, the company signed a lease Oct. 10, and the agreement became effective Nov. 1.
Per the lease, Avangrid’s lease includes a one-year preliminary term, followed by a five-year site assessment period and a 25-year operating term. The company will also pay $367,215 annually to rent the area.
A pair of sites identified as Wilmington East and Wilmington West that sit off the shore of Bald Head Island and slightly northwest, respectively, remain under evaluation.
The sites were moved from BOEM’s North Carolina designation to South Carolina, giving agency staff more time to study the options.
Economic impact: Supporters of the wind energy industry point to several areas where it could be a boon to the local economy.
First the tax base.
The Avangrid site in northeastern N.C. resulted in $520,000 in taxes each year, making it the largest payer in both counties it sits in, per Avangrid’s website.
Additionally, the company will pay at least $624,000 each year to the lease the land. And it expects both numbers to rise.
Next, there’s the supply chain. According to a North Carolina factsheet prepared by the Southeastern Wind Coalition, the state already features at least 32 companies and 50 facilities used to build wind turbines.
Per the factsheet, those companies include American Roller Bearing, Nucor Steel and PPG Inudstries, among others.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding