When it comes to big new economic development opportunities, it’s no secret that rural communities sometimes feel left behind. But with the rise of wind energy, that has been changing. And this trend has not been lost on local chamber leaders and others focused on economic development.
In recent years, local chamber leaders in Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia have been speaking up about the benefits of wind energy to their communities. Now, local chamber leaders in North Carolina are joining their ranks with the opening of the state’s first large-scale wind farm, Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East.
“As representatives for the business community, it’s our responsibility to advocate for jobs and economic development in northeast North Carolina and the Elizabeth City region, and we are thrilled to see the [Amazon] project operational,” the Elizabeth City Chamber of Commerce President and Board President recently wrote in a letter to North Carolina’s Speaker, Tim Moore.
“The Amazon project has a significant impact on the local economy and our Tier 1 [North Carolina’s most distressed] counties, as well as to our region’s economic growth and the ongoing expansion of the clean tech sector in the state,” Mike Hindenach and Doug Gardiner added.
“Everyone will benefit.” Amazon’s latest wind farm was built to power data centers outside Washington, D.C. But North Carolina’s local communities spanning Pasquotank and Perquimans counties are reaping direct economic benefits. Among them:
- More than 500 workers and 30 North Carolina companies were put to work
- More than $18 million was spent locally by Avangrid Renewables
- More than $1.1 million in landowner payments and taxes will be injected into the local economy each year, according to a report in Electric Light & Power.
“Almost everyone in the community knows someone who worked on the wind farm, sold or rented something that helped build the wind farm, or owns land where the project was built,” Cecil Perry, Chairman of the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners, was quoted as saying.
“These jobs, and this nearly $400 million investment in a rural part of North Carolina, are welcome — everyone in the county will benefit from the long-term property tax payments,” Perry added.
Benefits to More NC Communities. But it is not only the communities that house wind farms that benefit from the development of wind energy. North Carolina, for example, has more than 70 companies across the wind supply chain, such as the making of blades, towers, generators, and turbine assembly.
Meanwhile, a second wind farm, Timbermill Wind, is eyed for development in North Carolina that could bring in between $600,000 to $800,000 a year for each of the counties it would span. Chowan County unanimously approved conditional use permits, but Perquimans County did not. The developer, Apex Clean Energy, is moving forward with the project in Chowan County while it appeals the decision in Perquimans County.
The Edenton-Chowan Chamber adopted a resolution in support of wind energy and the proposed project, then helped lead the charge to co-host a briefing call for other chambers.
“What does wind energy mean to little Chowan County?” asked Win Dale, Executive Director of the Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce, a place that struggles to maintain its tax base and provide jobs that will be home to the state’s second planned wind farm, Timbermill Wind. “It means increasing our revenue by $250,000 a year,” he said.
The Outer Banks Chamber, home to a strategic spot for offshore wind development, has also publically expressed their support for wind development. Offshore wind could lead to 48,145 jobs in North Carolina—approximately 25,000 more than from offshore drilling.
Pictured above from left to right: Rep. Howard Hunter; Rep. Chuck McGrady; Speaker Tim Moore; Rep. Holly Grange; Rep. Sam Watford; Rep. Bob Steinburg; Rep. John Bell; Rep. Chris Malone; Rep. John Szoka.