The land of tobacco and peach farms is set to sprout something it’s never seen before — a major wind farm. Crews are currently building a new commercial-scale wind turbine farm on an old tract of North Carolina farmland – and the farm could generate enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes. The project marks the first large onshore wind farm in the region’s history.
Spanish company Iberdrola Renewables LLC is ready to install 102 turbines on 22,000 acres of land near Elizabeth City, a coastal community. Once those are up, the project could add as many as 50 more. It hasn’t been an easy process – Iberdrola has been working on the regulatory side for years.
There are currently nine states in the southeastern section of the United States, from Arkansas to Florida, that do not currently generate any of their electricity from wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The light, fluctuating winds were considered a “dead zone” for wind power, however, taller towers and larger turbines are opening up new opportunities – and the wind industry is looking to expand.
“If you go higher, the wind is better,” said Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the Department of Energy. “The question is how you get there responsibly and economically.” As coal power is being phased out, more companies are looking to expand into wind power. Federal energy researchers have created new maps which indicate that onshore wind flows at high elevations – however ten years ago turbines were just not tall enough.
Although wind farms generate just five percent of U.S. energy, states like South Dakota and Iowa are already getting as much as 20 percent of their electricity from wind. And the U.S. Department of Energy believes the U.S. can generate at least 20 percent of total electricity needs from wind by 2030. Other countries are leading by example – Denmark already gets 28 percent of its energy from wind. Of course, the country of Denmark is just about twice the size of the state of Massachusetts.
Research into wind is ongoing in the South, where the idea has been opposed for a long time. Hopefully, as research and the technology catches up, the South will start to develop its wind power potential more and more.