Infrastructure

Despite Appeals, North Carolina's First Wind Farm Starts Spinning

Days before the start of operations, Republican legislative leaders appealed to the incoming Trump administration to block the farm, claiming turbines nearly 500 feet tall would interfere with military radar in Virginia.

by Bruce Henderson, The Charlotte Observer / February 13, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

(TNS) -- North Carolina’s first wind farm has begun spinning, its developer said last week, despite recent efforts by legislative leaders to kill it.

The Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East sprawls across 22,000 acres of farmland in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. Its 104 turbines are expected to generate enough energy to power 61,000 homes a year. The farm began delivering power in December but reached full operation this month, developer Avangrid Renewables said.

Days before the start of operations, Republican legislative leaders appealed to the incoming Trump administration to block the farm, claiming turbines nearly 500 feet tall would interfere with military radar in Virginia. Ten legislators, including Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, signed the letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, the Associated Press reported

The lawmakers’ letter said the Pentagon signed off on the project because of a “political correctness focus” by President Obama’s administration and its “promotion of unscientific and nonsensical ‘All of the Above’ energy sources (and renewable energy in particular) at essentially any cost.”

The Pentagon later said it disagreed that the wind farm poses a threat to national security, the Associated Press said. There has been no publicly known response from the Trump administration.

It wasn’t the first attack by conservative lawmakers on North Carolina wind energy.

State Republican legislators have said they will continue to fight for a measure that failed in 2016 but would ban wind farms that might interfere with military airspace, which covers large swaths of the state.

Avangrid touts the economic impact of the project: more than 500 workers employed at the peak of construction, $18 million spent locally and landowner rents and taxes worth $1.1. million a year. A permanent crew of 17 will operate the farm.

“Almost everyone in the community knows someone who worked on the wind farm, sold or rented something that helped build the wind farm, or owns land where the project was built,” Cecil Perry, chairman of the Pasquotank County commissioners, said in a statement. “These jobs, and this nearly $400 million investment in a rural part of North Carolina, are welcome – everyone in the county will benefit from the long-term property tax payments.”

Energy from the farm will be delivered to an electrical grid that supplies data centers for Amazon Web Services, which aims to eventually get all its power from renewable energy.

Apex Clean Energy plans a second farm in the same region but officials in Perquimans County denied a permit, saying the planned 599-foot-tall turbines – which would be the nation’s tallest – didn’t fit the heavily timbered region and could hurt property values. Residents have complained that the structures will make noise, produce headache-inducing shadows and kill birds.

Apex has appealed the decision but said it will go ahead with building 48 turbines in neighboring Chowan County, which has approved the project.

©2017 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.