Commentary: Wind farm powers our economy forward

By on February 1, 2017

By State Rep. Bob Steinburg

Now in my third term serving northeastern North Carolina communities as a state legislator, we have together weathered challenging economic times with few bright spots. That all changed when Avangrid Renewables (formerly Iberdrola) partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to build a wind farm in my district that will deliver energy into the electrical grid to supply current and future data centers without adverse impacts to local ratepayers.

This wind project has brought a much needed economic boost to our area and will have a positive impact for years to come. This wind project is a great example of what can happen when communities, businesses and the military work hand-in-hand.

Avangrid Renewables and AWS have been easy to work with and completely transparent from start to finish with the wind farm. They have been flexible and listened to my constituents.

I have been involved since 2013 and attended countless meetings with local, state and federal officials, businesses, as well as constituents to ensure the best interests of everyone were taken into account.

The detailed and robust permitting process began roughly eight years ago, and entailed cooperation and coordination with dozens of local, state, and federal officials, including the Pentagon, to get permission to build. The process to earn approval from the Defense Department alone was a years-long review, detailed exactly where wind turbines could be located, and ensures the compatibility of the wind farm with all Defense Department facilities in the region.

I am thrilled Avangrid Renewables selected my district for such an important project and for the positive economic benefits it provides to these counties and our state. Moreover, it is a clear example of success for other businesses that may be looking to build similar clean energy projects in our state.

To date, the project has been a windfall of economic development for Perquimans and Pasquotank counties. Agricultural communities like these do not often have opportunities to attract $400 million investments and moving forward; the sustained revenue stream is unprecedented.

The wind farm will become the largest taxpayer in both counties, bringing more than $520,000 annually to help fund local schools, hospitals, police and fire departments. Landowners will receive $624,000 annually to supplement their annual income, most of whom are farmers.

Beyond taxes and increased income from land lease payments, we’ve seen job creation. Construction peaked at more than 500 jobs on-site this past summer. More than 30 North Carolina-based companies have helped build it.

About $1 million per month was being spent locally during construction, on everything from hotels, restaurants, fuel, and equipment rental, to name a few. And now 17 fulltime, highly paid positions, which can’t be offshored, have been created to maintain the site, led by a North Carolina native and U.S. Army veteran.

Most importantly, this project puts our communities on the map for having the first wind farm in the state, one of the first in the whole southeast U.S., and helping AWS reach its renewable energy goals.

Having these types of Fortune 500 companies do business in our state is a win-win for everyone involved. Our state has made great strides forward to create an environment that fosters our vibrant and growing clean energy economy. The Amazon Wind farm is just one of what I hope will be many more clean energy projects to keep our state’s economy flourishing and our citizens prospering.

Rep. Bob Steinburg represents District 1 in the North Carolina House of Representatives which includes all of part of Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans, and Tyrell Counties.

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