Second mammoth wind farm nears public hearing phase in eastern N.C.

As turbines start to dot farmland near Elizabeth City, part of the in-progress Amazon Wind Farm, the Apex project to the south, dubbed Timbermill Wind, is nearing the public hearing phase.

Don Giecek, the Charlottesville, Virginia-based senior manager of business development for Apex Clean Energy, is several years into his due diligence, having picked a 17,000-acre swath that spans parts of Perquimans and Chowans counties – just a few miles away from where Iberdrola crews are already erecting turbines into the sky at what will be the Amazon Wind Farm.

The first turbine has hit the skyline at the Amazon wind farm in Perquimans County . Iberdrola officials say cranes pulled the turbine vertical last week. It's one of more than 100 that will be raised by the end of the year.

In many ways, the two projects are similar, he says. Timbermill, like Amazon Wind Farm, will have more than 100 turbines, if all goes as planned. The 105-turbine Timbermill project could provide up to 300 megawatts of power.

“That would be enough to provide power to approximately 60,000 homes,” he says.

And, like Amazon Wind Farm, which first had Iberdrola officials talking to eastern North Carolina officials back in 2009, it will take a long time to complete. If all goes well, groundbreaking would happen in early 2018, he says. The farm is targeted to be fully functional by the end of 2018.

But there’s one big difference. It, unlike the project to the north, isn’t finalized.

Iberdrola’s permits have been in place for years, making the Amazon project immune to legislation that could thwart those kinds of projects.

While a bill that would have restricted wind turbines in much of the state, citing concerns over military flight training paths, was not passed in the latest session, legislators have reportedly said they’ll pick it up again in the coming months.

Giecek isn't worried. He says the project is moving forward, and that it’s met all the required regulatory hurdles – including those put up by the military.

The Timbermill site was picked in part because it was elected to meet with “minimal” interference with both commercial and military aircraft, he says.

And, as the bill failed to pass, what currently stands in the way of the project are conditional use permits in the counties. Those applications have been obtained and both counties have hearings in August to discuss the project.

In the meantime, the project to the north is progressing. Iberdrola business development director Craig Poff says the first turbine went vertical last week.

Giecek hopes that, as that project progresses, residents’ concerns about Timbermill might be appeased, as they see actual turbines in action. Because, like the farm to the north, Timbermill has met with some citizen pushback. “While you can certainly find folks that are resistant to change there’s a lot of support in both counties,” Giecek says.

If the project moves forward, it will become the largest taxpayer in Chowan County, only perhaps rivaling the Amazon Wind Farm for that status in Perquimans.


JUL 12 2016
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