Amazon facility shows wind's benefit to economy


By Katharine Kollins
Guest Columnist

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

This month, the Amazon Wind Farm marks two years of commercial operation and generating clean, renewable energy — and over three years of delivering benefits to Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. There is much to celebrate and more opportunities on the horizon. The wind farm has brought lasting economic benefits to northeastern North Carolina that will continue to have positive impacts for many years to come.

During construction, the wind farm provided more than 500 jobs and improved infrastructure, including new roads. It also pumped more than $18 million into the local economy during a recession, helping keep restaurants, hardware stores, and other local businesses busy. Post construction, there are 17 full-time jobs with an average salary of $80,000, and expanded economic development opportunities.

Perhaps most importantly, the Amazon Wind Farm has provided a significant “shot in the arm” via new opportunities for local farmers. With many men and women relying on the land to grow corn, soybeans, and other crops to earn a living, one dip in commodity prices or a bad storm could break them for the year or worse. Now, 60 landowners have a guaranteed income source from wind turbines. They’re receiving thousands of dollars per year in lease payments to host wind turbines on their land, providing income they can count on regardless of commodity prices or weather patterns — and, they can continue growing crops up to the base of each turbine.

The benefits continue in the form of tax payments that both Pasquotank and Perquimans counties receive from Avangrid Renewables, the wind farm’s owner and operator. Combined, the counties received property tax payments of $680,000 in 2018, on top of the $640,000 paid in 2017. Avangrid Renewables has quickly become the largest taxpayer in both counties. And, these new tax revenues are being spent locally for schools, infrastructure improvements, and public services.

While the wind farm is a positive driver for the local economy, the wind industry’s benefits reach further than just the northeastern part of our state. North Carolina is home to 26 manufacturing facilities that make components for wind turbines such as fiberglass for the blades and cooling systems for turbines, which are shipped and incorporated into projects across the U.S. and around the world. These manufacturers employ nearly 600 North Carolinians, generating nearly $800 million in annual revenue for our state’s economy.

Now that North Carolina’s 18-month wind moratorium has expired, we’re hopeful the types of economic benefits the greater Elizabeth City area has received from its wind farm will be expanded to other rural eastern North Carolina communities as new wind projects advance.

Expanding wind energy in our state means millions of dollars more for local economies, more jobs, and more county tax revenue. This infusion from the Amazon wind project and other projects like it have the ability to improve the quality of life, and help secure a solid economic future in northeastern North Carolina for generations to come.

Katharine Kollins is president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, which works in 11 states to promote land-based and offshore wind, wind imports, and the regions’ supply chain assets.