Winds of Change Blowing Through North Carolina?

Winds of Change Blowing Through North Carolina?

How would wind energy benefit North Carolina?

North Carolina is one of 11 states in the country without any turbines installed for harnessing wind energy. Though the state currently lacks wind energy output, it is making headlines for its energy potential. Researchers have determined that North Carolina is home to lucrative wind sources – inland and offshore.

Amazon is building the state’s first utility-scale wind farm in northeast North Carolina. The immense $400 million farm in the counties of Perquimans and Pasquotank will start with 104 turbines spanning across 34 square miles. Iberdrola Renewables will develop Amazon’s 208 megawatt wind farm, which is expected to produce electricity by the end of 2016. The wind energy development company has installed more than 6,000 megawatts of wind power in the United States. Comparatively, the average nuclear plant has a capacity of 1,000-1,500 megawatts.

More than 60 property owners are leasing land to Amazon – for the turbines themselves and their access roads. Landowners will receive $6,000 the first year for each turbine and receive increasingly more compensation in years following.

Horace Pritchard, a 66-year-old landowner who owns a 1,300-acre farm, will host nine turbines on his property, receiving a noteworthy $54,000 in the first year.

The wind is a cash crop to us,
- Horace Pritchard said.

“The wind is a cash crop to us,” Pritchard said. He’s not alone. Those who lease portions of their land to Amazon will be able to house turbines on their property AND continue farming their crops. The excess money they’re receiving can be used for new equipment, hiring help, or family livelihood.

North Carolina is also making headlines for its offshore wind power capacity. Though the United States doesn’t have any offshore wind farms, recent studies show that the Atlantic coast has about 1,000 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity potential. The U.S. currently has about 1,000 gigawatts of installed wind capacity throughout the country, which means utilizing the Atlantic coast could double the country’s portfolio.

North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia possess 82 percent of the Atlantic’s newly appointed capacity in shallow water (but more than 12 miles offshore). Harnessing just 52 of the 1,000 gigawatt potential could power 14 million homes and create more than 300,000 new jobs while adding $200 billion in new activity into our country’s economy.

For offshore wind energy, the Department of the Interior (DOI) designates Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) based on maximizing energy efficiency while protecting sensitive habitats and resources, minimizing space used, and conflicts with activities such as military operations, shipping, and fishing.

The DOI designated three offshore North Carolina WEAs totaling more than 300,000 acres. Kitty Hawk would be home to a 122,495-acre wind farm more than 25 miles off of the coast. The southern portion of the state has two WEAs, Wilmington West and Wilmington East, occupying 51,595 and 133,590 acres, respectively.

Now that the cost of obtaining electricity through wind energy is comparable to the price of natural gas, utilizing these offshore wind farms would make North Carolina more energy independent and drive money into the economy. North Carolina is embracing the winds of change that are gusting across its lush, mountainous geography.

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