The first utility-scale wind farm in North Carolina is now fully operational even though the state's top politicians wanted President Donald Trump to nix the $400 million project because they said it's a national security threat.
Avangrid Renewables today announced the wind farm, sporting 104 turbines that are 50-stories tall, is now generating 670 megawatt hours (MWh), enough electricity for 61,000 homes. The wind farm is located in the northern part of the state and was built out across farm lands.
Amazon is buying electricity from the new wind farm to power its Virginia data centers. The North Carolina facility is one of three new wind and solar projects Amazon announced as part of its AWS sustainability project that is now delivering energy onto the electric grid that power its data centers.
After a development and permitting process that began in 2009, Avangrid Renewables began building the North Carolina wind farm in the summer of 2015.
Ten North Carolina legislators, including state House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, however, asked the Trump administration to kill the project because of its proximity to the Navy's long-distance surveillance radar installation in Chesapeake, Va., according to an Associated Press report. The Navy radar station scans the Atlantic and Caribbean for ships and planes.
Last month, the Pentagon said the wind farm and radar station can operate without detriment to either. For its part, Avangrid Renewables culled the size of the project, repositioned the turbines and worked with the military to avoid affecting the radar array.
With the new wind farm operational, Amazon said it has exceeded its 2016 goal of being powered by 40% renewable energy; it has set a new goal to be at 50% by the end of 2017.
"Amazon is investing in several other clean energy activities across the company," the online retailer and service provider said in a statement. "Some of our other projects include Amazon Wind Farm Texas -- a 253MW wind farm in Scurry County, Texas -- green rooftops, and the District Energy Project that uses recycled energy for heating Amazon offices in Seattle."
The 18-month construction project put more than 30 North Carolina-based companies to work, at one point employed more than 500 workers and resulted in more than $18 million spent locally by Avangrid Renewables. The total of landowner payments and taxes will begin injecting more than $1.1 million into the local economy each year, the company said.
“Farms have been growing corn, soybeans, and wheat for a long time here, and the wind farm revenue means a lot of families are protected from pricing swings, floods or droughts going forward,” said Horace Pritchard, one of nearly 60 North Carolina landowners associated with the project. “We’re just adding another locally-grown crop to our fields, with very little ground taken out of production, and the improved roads really help with access, so it’s a great fit here.”