Southeast’s largest wind farm gets first turbine
Controversial project near Elizabeth City to supply electricity for Amazon
NORTHEASTERN N.C. — As we all know, wind energy has been a highly divisive project in eastern North Carolina. The citizens of Perquimans County have fought vehemently against the construction of wind energy facilities and have sought to deny developers the conditional use permit from the county that would allow the project to go forward.
Perquimans County was in the forefront of this battle because the Amazon Wind Energy Project was to be constructed on land bordering both Pasquotank and Perquimans Counties. Chowan County was somewhat behind in its approval process because the developer, Apex Development, had filed for approvals after those of Iberdrola Renewables.
After several months of wrangling, including legal filings by multiple plaintiffs in Wake County Court, and the Office of Administrative Hearings, the plaintiffs have reached the end of this divisive process and the Amazon project has proceeded with construction.
Plaintiffs GiGiBadawi and Steve Owens had received some initial encouragement with their lawsuit, stating that the Department of Natural Resources had erred in the state agency’s determination that the project could proceed as originally submitted, even though the positions of wind turbines had been changed from the original filing.
However, when the case got into Wake County Court, the judge ruled against the plaintiffs and in favor of defendants Amazon Wind and DENR.
The basis of the lawsuit was that changes had been made, which would therefore require that the new site plan would need to be reviewed to make certain that no violations had taken place – that might be materially adverse to the plaintiffs. These plaintiffs sought to prove that wind energy was contrary to the interests of the county, which is supposed to provide for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.
But the court failed to see the merits as sufficient to stop the project from going forward.
The plaintiffs in the meantime (while the case was going through the courts) sought to appeal to the Perquimans County planning board and to the Commissioners directly to require the developer to provide a setback for each industrial wind turbine, away from residential structures.
However, the planning board and county commissioners seem to be more interested in protecting the interests of the wind energy developer than in protecting the interests of the citizens to whom they were sworn to serve.
The result? Three candidates have filed for two of the open County Commissioner seats – that of the chairwoman and of one commissioner, neither of whom seeking reelection!
As one of these new candidates stated: “You elect people to represent you and have belief that they are looking out for your interest. But when you find that that is not the case, the only choice remaining is to seek correction and have a Board of Commissioners that is responsive to the citizens.”
In the case of Perquimans County, they had a room full of opponents that overflowed into the hallway — all of whom were distressed that the construction of Industrial Wind Energy turbines would change the nature of their ability to enjoy their property.
In fact, Ms. Badawi stated that if she and her husband had known that wind energy turbines would be constructed adjacent to their home, they would have never decided to retire to Perquimans County.
Nevertheless, the citizens lost out to a group of County Commissioners who were more interested in the revenue from this project than from any other single consideration. The same considerations as just stated were evident in the attempts by the citizens of Chowan County to stop this development from proceeding.
The Commissioners seem to be intent on proceeding with the issuance of a conditional use permit as well, but it does seem unlikely that the permit will be issued prior to the November election when several anti-wind candidates are seeking election to a number of open Commissioner Seats.
Construction of wind turbines is well underway in Pasquotank County. The commissioners there were likewise interested in the tax revenue that would be derived from the project — rather than the interests of the citizen group who opposed it.