$400M wind farm may be shut down weeks before going online thanks to GOP opposition to renewable energy
RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers, including Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, are asking the incoming Trump administration to shut down a $400M wind farm in northeastern North Carolina — even though the facility is nearly complete and just weeks away from going online.
The wind farm is on about 20,000 acres in rural northeastern North Carolina near Elizabeth City, an area with some of the best on-land wind potential on the East Coast.
The legislative opposition comes after all 104 towers have been constructed, about $400 million has been invested and full commercial electricity production is weeks away, said Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Avangrid Renewables, a U.S. subsidiary of Spanish clean-energy giant Iberdrola S.A.
Amazon will buy the electricity output, comparable to the power 60,000 U.S. homes use in a year, to run its Virginia data centers.
A 2014 agreement between Avangrid and the Navy said that although there is potential for conflict between the wind farm and the radar array, the Pentagon also sought to enhance the country’s renewable energy resources. The agreement specified placement of the project’s wind turbines and an understanding that the company would curtail operations “for a national security or defense purpose.”
“If the wind farm threatened any military readiness or capabilities, they wouldn’t have cleared us to build,” Copleman said in an email. “Specifically at this site, we reduced the size of the project, arranged specific turbines differently, ran extensive modeling in conjunction with their scientists, and will continue to share operating data once we reach full commercial operation.”
One coastal legislator not on the list of signatories was Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, whose district includes the wind farm project. Steinburg told CRO Wednesday that he would fight any move to shut down the wind farm unless he saw any solid evidence that claims in the letter were true.
Steinburg said he had raised his objections with House leaders over the letter. The push to shut down the wind farm, he said, is less about the military and more about a long-running fight against renewables in the General Assembly.
“I think there are some who are trying to set up the military as a straw man,” Steinburg said. “I have not talked with anyone from the military that has said they cannot coexist with this particular project.”
Steinburg said the wind farm went through years of review at the state, federal and local levels.
“This has very little to do about the military and everything to do with anti-renewables,” Steinburg said.