Wind farm featured in Sierra Club film
By Jon Hawley
Sunday, July 1, 2018
The giant wind farm that straddles Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, and two of the farmers who benefit from it are featured in a new film produced by an Oakland, California-based group that bills itself as the nation’s largest and most-influential environmental organization.
Amazon Wind Farm US East and the farmers — Steve Harris and Horace Pritchard — are featured in “Reinventing Power,” a new film produced by the Sierra Club to tout the transformative power of renewable energy.
The Sierra Club hosted a screening of “Reinventing Power” at Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City Thursday evening.
The film profiles communities and people who've embraced the rapid growth of wind and solar power, as well as electric vehicles. In addition to discussing the Amazon wind farm, the film also spotlights numerous other projects and communities. A few include: an offshore wind farm for the tiny Block Island community in Rhode Island; a new start for a coal worker-turned-rooftop solar installer in Missouri; and the swelling work force of a major electric bus manufacturer north of Los Angeles.
The film's showing in Elizabeth City follows numerous watch parties nationwide and across North Carolina, the Sierra Club's Margaret Lillard said Thursday. The film, which runs less than an hour, will also be made available online next month, she said.
The Sierra Club produced the film to show the nation can and should reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, Lillard said, noting the environmental and economic benefits of doing so. She also said she hoped the film would encourage people to seek more information on renewable energy opportunities, such as community solar.
In the segment on the Amazon wind farm, Harris and Pritchard shared their experiences as both farmers and property owners who’ve leased land for the wind farm's turbines.
Harris explained farming is almost like gambling — so many factors affect the yield and profitability of crops, he said. The turbines take little land out of production while generating lease payments that hedge against bad years, he said.
“I never thought I'd be farming wind,” Pritchard says in the film. Farmers are told to diversify, and wind turbines have allowed him to do just that, he explained.
The film does not include any interviews or comments from Avangrid Renewables, the wind farm's developer, but it does feature comments from Adam Forrer, of the Southeastern Wind Coalition. Noting that Avangrid invested some $400 million in the project, Forrer said renewable energies are a rare, much-needed investment in rural communities.
Harris, Pritchard and Forrer also joined a panel discussion after the film — as did Pasquotank Board of Commissioners Chairman Cecil Perry. The wind farm is a major source of property tax revenue for Pasquotank, and Perry said that money is vital to helping the county fund the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools. A strong school system is essential to improving the local economy, he said.
In an interview earlier, Perry also said he expected renewable energy to remain a growth industry for the nation, though he didn't go as far as to say it would displace fossil fuels any time soon. Use of renewable energy will depend on locations and situations, he said.
Perry also welcomes the prospect of an additional solar farm being built in Pasquotank. A still-unnamed company is interested in building a 3,000-acre-plus solar farm in the county.
Though some commissioners are skeptical of the project, Perry said it would take a “minute” amount of the county's total farmland out of production while generating yet more revenues to support schools and other services.