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First Wind Energy Farm Blows Into the Southeast

Elizabeth City, North Carolina, will host a 204-megawatt wind energy facility—the first in a region known for steady coastal breezes. The project is a collaboration of European-based Iberdrola Renewables, LLC, and Seattle-based Amazon.
July 20, 2015, 5am PDT | Pete Sullivan | @cityplannerpete
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The $600 million project includes 102 turbines on 22,000 acres, to be built by Spanish developer Iberdrola Renewables, LLC. It will generate enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes, though the electricity will not be used locally. Iberdrola has partnered with Seattle-based Amazon as its sole customer, and the project will help support the retail giant's cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services. Power from the Elizabeth City project will be sent to regional transmission lines, feeding Amazon’s data centers in Virginia and Ohio. 

Currently there are no commercial wind energy farms in a region of nine southeast states, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. Part of the reason the southeast has been passed over by the wind energy industry is because the winds were not thought to be strong enough. But newer designs allow for taller turbines with bigger blades, which are able to capture stronger breezes and could help turn the industry’s attention toward the region for further exploration.

Project location

Wind energy also faces political challenges in the southeast, and the success of Iberdrola and Amazon could create smoother sailing for future projects. North Carolina in particular is considered to have some of region’s best winds, but proposals in the past have been pushed out due to opposition from tourism groups, interference with military flight paths, and potential harm to wildlife.

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Published on Sunday, July 12, 2015 in WRAL
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