ELIZABETH CITY, NC (WVEC) -- In recent years there’s been explosive growth in the use and implementation of renewable energy to fuel the nation’s growing consumption.
When it comes to renewable we have to look no further than our own backyard... literally, just south of the border in North Carolina sits one of the first wind farms in the entire southeastern United States.
Paul Copleman of Avangrid Renewables, the company that built and operates the facility says, “This part of North Carolina was attractive to us because it brings together the important variables that we are looking for.”
Those variables pair perfectly with the North Carolina location and include providing the turbines with plenty of wind. Another big selling point was the ability to have such a vast project but keep the land it sits on in use, in this case as farmland.
Paul says, “You can put a wind turbine and the assorted infrastructure in this place and farmers can farm around it and continue to use their land as they have always used it.”
Let’s talk numbers to give you a feel for the scale of this project: a single wind turbine produces enough energy to power over 600 homes for one year. There are 104 wind turbines here, powering 61,000 homes, sprawled across 22,000 acres of farmland. The project is so large that in ideal conditions it shows up on weather radar!
According to Paul, “We’ve seen the technology improve over the past five, 10, 15 years. We’ve seen the ability to go into places that we previously didn’t think of as windy enough. Now not only is it windy enough but there's a good economic case, because the machinery and technology is continually improving.”
What powers the wind? The sun. An equally viable option for renewable energy comes from something life as we know it has depended on literally forever.
Certain states are taking advantage of this vast resource more so than others. For example, North Carolina ranks Number 2 in the nation, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, powering 341,000 homes a year thanks to infrastructures installed through 2016.
Then there is Virginia. That same study showed a ranking of 22nd in the country, powering only 24,000 homes by solar! There’s a long way to go to be on a path to long-term sustainable, renewable energy but the trend is our friend!
The facility in Elizabeth City is truly remarkable and the size of the turbines is mesmerizing up close. A big reason for the big increase in solar use in a lot of areas in the country has been a huge drop in prices to obtain commercial and residential solar panels.
In Virginia alone, the cost has dropped 64 percent in the past five years!