This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.Guest Blog | February 10, 2017
North Carolina is nicknamed “First in Flight” because of the historic aeronautic experiments that occurred along the state’s breezy coast over a century ago. Now, North Carolina can tack on another windy first: Yesterday North Carolina’s first large-scale wind farm began generating electricity! The 208 MW Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, which would generate enough energy to power 61,000 homes a year, will power an Amazon web services data center in nearby Virginia.
The 104 wind turbines are predominately located on agricultural land near Elizabeth City in the northeastern part of North Carolina. Land owners voluntarily agreed to wind turbine placements on their property and are compensated accordingly. But the wind farm doesn’t just benefit the landowners – it’s a $400 million capital investment in Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties, and the project is expected to generate $250,000 in property tax revenues in just 2017 alone. The wind developer, Avangrid (formally Iberdrola), is now the largest taxpayer in the two counties the turbines are located in.
SACE is excited about the opportunities modern wind farms can bring to our region. Over the past five years, staff have published reports, tracked proposed projects, and traveled to every state in the South to work with decision makers about these new opportunities. Now, the Amazon Wind Farm showcases what we’ve been saying for years: the South is the next frontier for wind energy development.
With taller towers, longer blades and advanced components, harnessing wind energy resources is now technologically feasible across the entire region. The Amazon Wind Farm’s annual energy output is expected to be 670,000 megawatt hours. For a 208 megawatt wind farm, that roughly equates to a 37% annual capacity factor. Just five years ago, such a high capacity factor would have seemed unreachable; but with new turbine technology, wind farm capacity factors are expected to continue to increase. You can check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory WIND Toolkit, an interactive map with thousands of data points in the region that demonstrates the increased wind energy output with newer wind turbines.
This advanced technology goes hand-in-hand with lowering the cost of wind energy. Over the past 7 years, the average wind power purchase agreement price has declined by 66%, and is continuing to drop. A recent forecast from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory demonstrates that it’s cheaper to contract for wind power today than to generate electricity using natural gas. That’s why utilities across the Southeast are already purchasing nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind power.
This wind farm is a monumental step not just for North Carolina, but for the entire Southeast. There is only one other wind farm in the south, Invenergy’s Buffalo Mountain Wind Energy Center in Tennessee. With so few wind farms operating in the region, wind power remains a fairly unfamiliar resource. That makes it easier for anti-wind energy activists to spread misinformation and nonsense. But as people begin to see the positive effects of wind power in their community, it becomes obvious that wind power is a winner. Studies suggests that states with more wind farms boast more public support for wind energy. As more wind farms are developed throughout the South, public acceptance will continue to increase.
The Amazon Wind Farm is just the beginning of wind farm development in the South, and SACE will continue to track other developments across the region!