Apex Clean Energy’s long-delayed Timbermill Wind project seems finally back on track, as the Virginia-based company has asked N.C. regulators to approve the 189-megawatt project.
The company says it wants to start construction on the $246 million project in Chowan County by November 2022 and hopes to complete it a year later.
It would be just the second wind farm in North Carolina after the 208-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties owned and operated by Avangrid Renewables of Orange, Connecticut. That project was completed in 2017.
Apex has been working on Timbermill since at least 2016, but it ran afoul of an 18-month moratorium on wind project construction enacted by the N.C. General Assembly in 2017. That ended in early 2019, but Apex had not sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project until June.
The application to the N.C. Utilities Commission, filed June 14, scales the project down from the originally proposed 300 megawatts. The filing also notes that Apex will have to build a 6-mile, $7.1 million high-voltage transmission line to an interconnection switching station operated by Dominion Energy North Carolina to connect the project to Dominion’s grid.
In written testimony provided to the commission, Jimmy Merrick says there is an economic need for the project in the state. He cites the 2020 Integrated Resource Plans for Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress that state up to 150 megawatts of wind power could be needed in the state by 2034. It also notes that the recent Virginia Clean Economy Act will require Dominion to have 100% clean energy on its grid by 2045.
The project’s placement in northeastern North Carolina will also give Timbermill access to the PJM Interconnection system, which distributes power to parts or all of 13 states as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as eastern Indiana. There is significant demand for wind there, he tells the commission.
That includes sales to large corporate and institutional customers, a practice banned in North Carolina outside the small section served by Dominion. That is the most likely source of buyers for Timbermill’s power, much as Avangrid sells power from its North Carolina power to Amazon Web Services.
The filings to date do not identify any buyers for the power produced. But large renewable energy projects such as this are seldom built unless a purchaser is in the wings.
Apex Clean Energy was unavailable to respond to questions before deadline.
Little on the horizon
Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, says that Timbermill is the only land-based wind project on the horizon for North Carolina after the completed Amazon project.
“A lot will depend on Duke’s interest in wind,” she says. “My personal opinion is that land-based wind will be a niche generation source because it is much harder to permit than large offshore projects.”
She believes that offshore projects will be the main source of wind power in North Carolina for the near future. Federal authorities are in the process of approving the sale of leases for up to 1,600 megawatts worth of wind capacity in the Wilmington East development region by next June.
A federal offshore wind moratorium is slated to begin on the N.C. coast in July 2022. But Kollins says that the Wilmington East leases should go through before then. And, she says, there is some hope that the U.S. Congress will reverse itself on the moratorium as enthusiasm grows for clean energy development in the nation.
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