With energy prices rising and increasing emphasis placed on finding renewable alternatives to the fossil fuels that power the multitudes of cars behind every garage door in America, the whispers of a wind farm coming to the Northeastern coast of North Carolina are being greeted with applause from landowners.
The particular environmental requirements necessary to produce substantial outputs of energy are difficult to come by outside of tourist-popular coastal areas. While wind turbines are cleaner and make much better neighbors than coal and nuclear power plants, that does not mean that sight-seeing tourist attractions want 350 ft wind turbines popping up along misty mountain ridges where locals make their income from beautiful sunsets and the sights of colorful fall leaves and bursting spring buds. That's why locations like Pasquotank County and Perquimans County in North Carolina are becoming prime real estate for wind energy investors like Atlantic Wind LLC. These rural locations are close enough to the coastal winds to produce 2 megawatts of electricity per tower, yet still rural and undeveloped enough to ask crops and grazing cattle to be neighborly to the huge towers instead of beach-going tourists or commuters in major cities.
Atlantic Wind LLC will pay farmers and other landowners $6,000 each year per turbine erected on their property, and they can still farm around the concrete bases of the turbines. There isn't a crop that can match that return per acre, and in this case, they can still produce their crops in addition to their wind-generated income. The huge project planned for these rural/coastal areas could potentially produce 300 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity, increase landowner income, and power 50,000-60,000 homes.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, the United States produces about 2 percent of our total energy with 850 utility-scale wind farms much like the one proposed for NC. The turbines in the utility-scale wind farms produce enough electricity to power 10 million American homes, and Atlantic Wind LLC intends to contribute to that number in the near future.
Virginia has approved a 19 windmill farm for the beautiful mountains of Highland County, but construction has not yet begun. To entice the wind farmers to their areas, counties and states offer tax breaks, subsidies, and other financial "carrots" to bring attention to the wind potential of their areas. Atlantic Wind LLC will recoup one third of its $600 million dollar investment through the federal government. The company has already had its local tax bill reduced on a permanent basis from $25,000 per windmill down to $5,000 per turbine. The incentives turn out to be good for everyone though, and even with a 75% local tax reduction, Atlantic Wind will still be the county's largest taxpayer by 300%. That's 3x more tax revenue for the county, a boost in income for the landowners, and a reliable source of clean energy for the state.
With dollar signs in their eyes and clean energy in their hearts other states are lining up to invite the wind developers to check out their locations.