The developers of what is to be the nation’s tallest wind farm are appealing a local permit denial blocking construction of 57 wind turbines in Perquimans County in Eastern North Carolina.
Apex Energy, based in Charlottesville, Va., has asked the Perquimans Superior Court to overturn the county commission’s permit denial in November to build the turbines, which would rise up to 599 feet in height to the tip of the fully extended blades.
But Apex said this week it would move ahead with building 48 turbines approved in neighboring Chowan County, whose commissioners approved the project. Apex said it plans to build its Timbermill Wind power project in Chowan even if the Perquimans portion of the project is scaled back in size or ultimately defeated in the courts.
“Timbermill is designed to include both Perquimans and Chowan counties, and the Chowan County Board of Commissioners has already granted a conditional use permit for the portion of the project sited in Chowan,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Timbermill has analyzed the viability of a project that would be sited exclusively in Chowan County. We have determined that such a project is economically feasible, and we intend to pursue development with Chowan County officials.”
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Meanwhile, a previously approved wind farm, called Amazon Wind, completed its 104th and final turbine on Tuesday and expects to start generating electricity before year’s end. The $375 million energy project, in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, is undergoing final testing and will supply power to out-of-state data centers operated by online retailing giant Amazon.
If both projects are built to capacity, North Carolina would be home to 209 industrial-scale turbines clustered in three coastal counties known for their superb wind energy resource. The Amazon project is considerably smaller, with turbines extending 492 feet at the tip of the blades. Both wind farms faced local resistance from residents who are concerned about giant whirling blades that cause whooshing noises when they crash through the air, as well as flickering sunlight as the blades spin.
The opposition was strongest against Timbermill in Perquimans, where residents would see minimum benefit from a project largely built on timberland owned by the Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest timber producers. Weyerhaueser has agreed to host 54 turbines in Perquimans and 20 in Chowan, and stands to collect more than $40 million in lease payments from Apex over three decades.
On Wednesday, both sides took their case to the Perquimans County Superior Court. Apex is asking the court to rule that Perquimans commissioners’ decision was not legal. Perquimans commissioners took four votes in November determining that the Timbermill project passed four separate conditions. But because three of the five commissioners had cast at least one vote against Timbermill in the four voting rounds, the commission decided to deny the permit application.
Apex said the commission’s final tally amounts to an improper aggregation of votes.
Four Perquimans couples and a resident are asking the court to uphold the commission’s permit denial. The residents contend that Apex failed to provide assessments and studies to determine the project’s health and economic impacts. The residents suing all live less than a mile from the turbines and say their land would lose 25 percent to 40 percent of its value if Timbermill is built.
A court decision is expected sometime next year, likely to be followed by further appeals. Both sides are represented by lawyers from Raleigh law firms.
The two wind farms have also garnered support from local residents and from public officials.
The Apex project would pay more than $750,000 a year in property tax revenue in each county; landowners leasing space for the project will be paid more than $500,000 per turbine over 30 years.
The Amazon wind farm will pay $520,000 in taxes in its first year, increasing annually thereafter; it will pay $624,000 in landowner lease payments in its first year, increasing each year.