When a fresh breeze blows in northeastern North Carolina on a 34-square-mile site in a sparsely populated area, it’s going to sound like money. After years of putting together permits and doing acoustic studies and radar studies to ensure safety for birds, a wind farm to be built by a Spanish company, Iberdrola Renewables, will be eventually generating electricity by next year. The power will go to data centers of the online retail mega company, Amazon.
This will be called the Amazon Wind Farm US East, located in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties. The site is 15 miles from Albemarle Sound and 30 miles from the coast.
Iberdrola reports it will pay over half a million dollars in property taxes in both counties in the first year, and that figure will increase. The company’s going to get a huge break, a rebate of 94 percent on its taxes the first year.
But, whether it was a pun intended or not, the director of the Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission said it was still a bargain for the area. “It’s like a windfall for us,” Wayne Harris said. And he noted the company will be the largest taxpayer in both counties, and that “They’re putting no strain on services ... and the farmers can still farm.”
One of those farmers, Horace Pritchard, 66, is going to have nine turbines on his 1,300-acre farm the first year of the project, for which he’ll receive over $54,000. Pritchard calls it a “cash crop.”
The question isn’t whether the state should push for more such farms, but why it has taken so long to get this going.
Didn’t Republicans promise to create jobs when they took control of state government, to produce a “Carolina Comeback”? But their efforts have fallen short, when it comes to new sorts of clean, high-tech industries such as wind power.
GOP leaders have been pushing for offshore drilling, an energy producer that is uncertain in its outcome and risky for the environment in a state where the shore means a livelihood for tens of thousands of people and a destination for millions of visitors. Republicans also have been advocates of fracking, another highly questionable form of oil and natural gas extraction that comes with lots of potential environmental hazards.
If North Carolina’s leaders could just open their minds beyond conventional industries as targets for recruiting new employers, more projects like this one could happen.