Amazon plans to buy power from a big wind energy operation in northeastern North Carolina
By early 2017, the online retail and tech giant Amazon expects to buy electricity made at a giant wind energy installation on 22,000 acres of farmland in a remote region of northeastern North Carolina between Elizabeth City and Hertford. Before then, the region known as The Desert will begin sprouting 104 wind turbines, 500 feet high with giant blades. The blades will be visible from the U.S. 17 bypass running through Perquimans and Pasquotank counties.
The $400 million project is designed to generate up to 208 megawatts, enough to power 61,000 homes annually. Builder Iberdola Renewables says its Desert Wind project will require 250 people to build and 10 people to operate. Part of the deal will give Iberdola a 94 percent tax rebate in the first year and a projected 25 percent discount after 15 years.
Among other tax benefits for the project is the state’s Renewable Energy Tax Credit, set to expire at the end of 2015. There is debate in the General Assembly about extending it.
The local economy is destined to benefit, too. The farmland owners, 62 in all, will get about $6,000 a year for each turbine on their land, and the payment may rise in future years. Desert Wind will likely be the largest taxpayer in both counties, paying about $5,000 per year per tower for the 54 in Perquimans and 50 in Pasquotank.
Gov. Pat McCrory attended groundbreaking ceremonies in July and mentioned the prospect of counting the wind energy installation toward the newly announced Environmental Protection Agency’s federal requirement for U.S. states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from energy production.
“The Amazon wind farm is a significant step toward diversifying North Carolina’s energy resources,” McCrory said in July. “Bringing onshore wind production to North Carolina is part of my ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. By diversifying our energy resources, we can provide affordable, reliable and secure sources of energy that are environmentally clean and safe.”
While North Carolina already is seen as a leader nationally in developing utility-scale solar energy, wind power developers also have prospected here. Besides Amazon, according to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, Apple, Google and Facebook are looking to buy from the state’s renewable energy projects.
Iberdola said work could begin on the site this summer. The turbines will come in 2016. Meantime, Iberdola and the U.S. Department of Defense are studying the effects the turbines may have on Navy operations in the region. The firm also has worked with agencies concerned about effects on birds, bats and the local environment.