Amazon’s latest wind farm in coastal North Carolina has completed construction and is weeks from beginning operations—and state legislators have just asked the incoming Trump administration to shut it down.
The $400 million, 208-MW, 104-turbine project, built by Apex Renewables near Elizabeth City and backed by financing from Iberdrola Renewables, is supposed to power Amazon’s Virginia data centers. Amazon has purchased the entire output from what would be the first utility-scale wind farm in North Carolina.
But now, on the eve of operations, a group of state lawmakers has sent a letter to the Trump transition team, saying the project could interfere with a Navy radar installation in Chesapeake, Va., just over the state line. The Navy agreed to let the project proceed in 2014 after insisting on certain changes, but the lawmakers say this was the result of “political correctness” on the part of the Obama administration pushing for renewable energy “at any cost.” The lawmakers also suggest the turbines create a hazard for military aircraft operating in the area.
However, the state legislator who represents the district where the farm is located told the Charlotte Observer that he believes the argument about interference with radar is a pretext to slow renewable development in North Carolina.
In Wyoming, meanwhile, another group of legislators has alarmed wind sector groups by introducing a measure that would essentially ban utility-scale wind and solar generation for in-state use after 2019. The state’s utilities would be required to procure all their power from a list of approved “traditional” sources or pay a penalty of $10/MWh—essentially an anti-renewable portfolio standard.
Coal is one of the state’s biggest industries—it accounts for more than 40% of U.S. production—and coal interests in Wyoming have been fighting to protect jobs and revenue through a variety of measures. The state currently gets around 90% of its electricity from coal, but most of the remainder comes from the state’s 21 wind farms. The bill would cut wind and solar’s share of in-state consumption to 5% in 2018 and 0% in 2019.
Wyoming has been identified as a major wind resource by a variety of entities such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and per capita it has more wind capacity than any other state—1,410 MW as of the third quarter of 2016. Part of the attraction of wind power in Wyoming is the high capacity factors possible with the state’s rich wind resources, high enough to spur interest in massive projects that would transmit wind-generated electricity all the way from Wyoming to markets in Southern California.
The bill would not interfere with exporting wind power, but its use in-state would be banned. Proponents of the measure have openly stated that the goal is to protect Wyoming coal plants. Its chances of passage are uncertain, however.
—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).