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article imageWind farm coming to US 'Dead zone for wind power'

By Karen Graham     Jul 13, 2015 in Business
Elizabeth City - The southern United States is about to get something never seen before in the South. On a large tract of farmland near Elizabeth City, North Carolina, a $600 million commercial-scale wind farm is being built.
The $600 million project by Spanish developer Iberdrola Renewables LLC will put 102 turbines on 22,000 acres near the coast of North Carolina, with an additional 50 more turbines in the planning stages.
Once the wind farm is up and running, it is expected to generate about 204 megawatts, or enough electricity to power around 60,000 homes. It would also be the first onshore wind farm in an area having only light, fluctuating winds, a virtual "dead zone for wind power."
Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman told The Associated Press the regulatory process lasted a number of years, and at first seemed to doom the plan, but now, construction is projected to start in about a month.
The Associated Press is reporting that statistics provided by the American Wind Energy Association says there is not a "spark of electricity from wind power" being generated from nine states across the southeast from Arkansas to Florida.
The key to harnessing wind power appears to be in taller towers and bigger turbines, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The potential for investments in wind power is also coming at a time when coal-powered plants are being phased out. Some experts believe this opens the door to renewable energy sources.
Federal energy researchers have found stronger winds at higher altitudes can be tapped into by using higher towers along with larger rotor blades. New maps of onshore high elevation wind flows, previously unavailable, indicate this technology can be valuable in harnessing wind power in areas of the Southeast previously thought to be unsuitable.
"If you go higher, the wind is better," said Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the Department of Energy. "The question is how you get there responsibly and economically."
The new towers will be 460 feet tall, much higher than the average 260-foot towers seen across the U.S. The added height, along with new, larger turbines, will unlock the area's potential.
"In the past this site barely showed up on old (wind) maps. It was a little brown smudge," said Craig Poff, one of the developers, referring to color-coded wind resource maps. "The larger-diameter rotors are really the game-changer here."
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, only 5.0 percent of the country's energy needs come from wind farms, a rather low percentage compared to countries like Denmark (28 percent), Portugal, Spain and Ireland (16 percent each). North Dakota generates 20 percent of the state's energy from wind power.
It doesn't help matters that utility companies in most southern states have not invested in renewable energy sources. North Carolina is the only state to have adopted a law mandating utilities to increase their renewable energy portfolios.
More about North carolina, commercial scale, Wind farm, dead zone for wind power, spanish company
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