Pasquotank County and other counties close to the Virginia border are looking to benefit from the nation’s second offshore wind farm project planned for 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.
The state of Virginia approved Dominion Energy’s request to operate a 220-turbine wind farm on a 2,100-acre site just over a year ago. In addition to the thousands of construction jobs that will be created to complete the project, a study by the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium expects that more than 2,000 jobs will be needed to operate and maintain the wind farm once it is fully operational.
Survey work on the three-phase project will begin next year and Dominion hopes the project’s first phase will be generating power by 2024. The additional two phases of the project are expected to come online in 2025 and 2026, respectively. When the project is complete, Dominion expects to generate enough clean energy to power 650,000 homes during peak wind.
The wind farm’s expected economic impact could stretch into North Carolina. At least that is what area economic developers are hoping for.
Companies connected to the project will be looking for a place to locate and Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Director Christian Lockamy said the county is looking to attract some of them to the area.
Lockamy hasn’t had any substantive talks with any companies connected to the Dominion project but said the county is a “natural fit” because of its close proximity and easy access to the Port of Norfolk.
“We are familiar with that project and we would be interested and willing to entertain them and show them our assets,” Lockamy said. “Clean energy is one of our target sectors and we do communicate with those types of companies and showcase our assets.’’
Currituck Economic Development Director Larry Lombardi recently told the county’s Board of Commissioners that several companies that could help with the construction and operation of the wind farm have expressed interest in locating in the county’s Maple Commerce Park in Barco.
“Some of these are international companies,” Lombardi said. “This is not even an industry in this country. They will be looking for places close to the port. With us being right across the state line and with our tax structure, it is very, very attractive for them.”
Lockamy also said the state’s low corporate tax rate is a selling point not only for a project like the wind farm but also for any company looking to open up shop in the county. North Carolina’s corporate tax rate is 2.5 percent while Virginia’s corporate rate is 6 percent.
“That is very important,” Lockamy said. “North Carolina has the lowest corporate tax rate in the nation. Virginia has one of the higher ones in the nation. The further you go up the coast you see corporate tax rates that are nine, 10 percent.”
Other savings, like cheaper land and a lower cost of living, also play in the county’s favor.
“If you zoom out and look at communities in a similar situation to us, Rock Hill (South Carolina) is right across the border from Charlotte and it has made a living by being able to attract businesses that were meant for Charlotte,” Lockamy said. “That has helped grow the upstate part of South Carolina.”
Lockamy also said having three institutions of higher learning in Elizabeth City capable of supporting advanced manufacturing that is needed by companies is another plus for the county.
“We are in a good position to capitalize off of that,” he said.