Wind Power May Blow In North Carolina

Much of the attention regarding wind power generation in North Carolina has been focused offshore, but the world’s biggest wind-power developer has other ideas: Iberdrola Renewables, part of the Spanish company Iberdrola Renovables, said that after two years of laying the ground work it had officially applied to build the state’s first utility-scale plant.

Iberdrola has in mind a 150-turbine, 300-megawatt capacity plant on a 20,000-acre swath of private, flat farmland in the northeast corner of the state, but it struck a cautious tone in announcing the filing of an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. “The filing today represents the first step of many regulatory reviews that must be completed before Iberdrola Renewables makes a final decision on the project, which could begin construction as early as late 2011,” the company said.

Iberdrola Renewables wind power plant

image via Iberdrola Renewables

Iberdrola said it began studying building a plant in the area in 2009 and has been discussing the possibility with various stakeholders – from communities all the way up to the federal government – since then. That advance work appears to have paid off: The company announcement included a quote from Gov. Bev Perdue endorsing the project as one that would “help us lay the foundation for North Carolina to lead the nation in clean, homegrown energy.”

Last March, a University of North Carolina study said that North Carolina could meet 20 percent if its power needs by developing just one-sixth of its offshore wind potential – exceeding its goal of getting 12.5 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2021. The federal government is also eying including the state in its “Smart from the Start” process to speed offshore wind development.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.