For rural counties in North Carolina, wind arrays can serve as a breath of fresh air in the areas that need it the most.
Developing wind arrays as a source of energy creates new job opportunities, increases tax revenues, and rejuvenates local economies — causing a ripple effect of growth for North Carolina’s at times overlooked rural counties.
In Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, for example, the Amazon Wind Project US East has provided a jumpstart to the local economy. The development is the first commercial scale wind installation in North Carolina and reached full operation in February 2017.
A Whirlwind of Economic Opportunities
Wayne Harris, an economic developer for Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County, said he has seen first hand the positive impact of wind energy development in his rural area.
“From the beginning, Avangrid Renewables brought hope and opportunity to our community.” he said.
“It started with a public job fair, complete with food and a band, to recruit local tradesmen – more than 500 workers ultimately signed on to join the initiative. At completion, 18 residents gained new full-time employment, making an average salary of $80,000 per year, about $40,000 more than the local average. Much of that additional income then cycles back into the local economy to the benefit of the entire community.”
NC Farmers Supplementing with Wind
Avangrid leases land to host wind turbines from 60 farmers and landowners, who are paid $6,000 per turbine. Because the farmers are still able to use their land to grow crops, the lease payment is a supplement, not a replacement, to their income, and provides a significant boost to their bottom line.
Horace Pritchard, owner of approximately 1,300 acres in the wind project area, was the first farmer to sign on to lease part of his property to host a turbine. He has nine turbines on his land (providing him around $45,000 per year in income) and continues to grow corn, soybeans, and wheat.
“We did our homework,” Pritchard said when discussing his decision to lease his land. He cited the additional income, the long-term investment for his family, the small amount of land involved, and the new year-round roads installed by Avangrid as reasons he decided to sign on.
Developing Wind Arrays Jumpstarts Rural Communities
Harris said that beyond the jobs and lease payments the Amazon project created, tax revenues in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties are climbing.
“Perhaps the most overlooked benefit of wind development is the resulting increase in property tax revenues — more than $500,000 per year and increasing by 1.5 percent annually,” Harris said.
Since the beginning of the Amazon wind project, the rural communities have seen a marked increase in spending and as a result, sales tax revenue, as well. Avangrid Renewables made a notable effort to lease local equipment, to hire local workers, and to stay in local hotels while the project was being built.
“During construction, spending by Avangrid Renewables alone was approximately $18 million dollars, increasing the collected sales tax for Perquimans and Pasquotank counties by 20 and 10 percent, respectfully,” Harris said. “In addition, our tourism office reported a 57 percent increase in hotel occupancy in the first month of construction.”
“Those increases came back to these counties in the form of the bed tax that helps support growth and development.”
The construction of Amazon US East has had a large-scale impact on the economies of two of the smallest counties in North Carolina. Beyond the direct creation of new jobs and income, the development has led to a positive economic ripple effect throughout the rural counties, and a better quality of life. This example of a successful wind turbine energy system implementation shows the potential widespread benefits for the country, the state, and most importantly, the local communities.