First NC wind farm to have economic benefits despite concerns from legislators

windfarms

Full operation of the Amazon Wind Farm began last week near Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Photos courtesy of Paul Copleman

The wind farm of 104 wind turbines, located near Elizabeth City, was built by Avangrid Renewables. It produces enough energy to power more than 61,000 homes, according to Avangrid’s website.

Avangrid Communications Manager Paul Copleman said the property taxes will total $520,000 annually, making it the largest taxpayer in both Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.

“It’s not just about clean energy — it’s about North Carolina companies building this project, it’s about farmers benefitting long-term from this project and it’s about the tax money that’s going to flow into the community from this project long-term,” he said.

Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Pasquotank, said tax revenue was an important benefit of the turbines.

“In these small counties, one of the ways they have to tax is just to increase the real estate tax and folks usually don’t want that,” he said. “This is a way for the counties to address their needs.”

Copleman said about 500 people were employed in the construction of the project, and there will be a permanent crew of 17 staff members while the farm is in full operation.

June Blotnick, executive director of Clean Air Carolina, said the state is ideal for wind energy projects because of its coastal winds.

“North Carolina has the strongest offshore wind potential than any other state along the Atlantic seaboard,” said Blotnick. “And we must take advantage of this to improve the environment, our health and the economy.”

But ten Republican state legislators sent a letter opposing the project to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly.

The letter expressed concern that the 500-foot-tall windmills would interfere with the surveillance signal of the relocatable over-the-horizon radar facility operated by the U.S. Navy on the North Carolina-Virginia border.

“There should have been specific and extremely strict rules and regulations that would have quickly (and automatically) rectified any situation caused by the wind project that would adversely undermine the functioning of this important Homeland Security asset,” the letter said.

Kelly has not yet responded to the letter, and the signatories did not respond to requests for comment.

Both Copleman and Steinburg are confident, despite concerns voiced in the letter, that Avangrid worked closely with the military to get its approval for the project.

Copleman said there was a detailed process for the project to be approved by state, federal and military authorities.

“This was the military’s own scientists on site and in consultation with us to evaluate how the project would or would not interact with their capabilities, and ultimately we reached an agreement where they’re comfortable letting us build and operate,” he said.

Steinburg said prior to former President Barack Obama’s administration, the military talked about the need for a diversified energy supply.

“We need to find a way for the renewable folks to be able to work with the military, which they had to do on this project, to ensure that both can not only survive, but thrive,” he said.

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