RALEIGH — Wind-energy developers routinely deceive the public, a longtime critic of the industry told Carolina Journal. And the sales pitch surrounding the Amazon Wind Farm near Elizabeth City continues spreading those deceptions.

Amazon continues to perpetuate the myth that the electrical grid can take power from the turbines on the wind farm, store it, and direct it for actual use by faraway data centers on the same grid. That is the sort of deceptive practice that’s routine among wind energy developers and advocates, says Lisa Linowes, executive director of the New Hampshire-based WindAction Group. Linowes said Amazon’s purported “commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage” for its web service data centers also is misleading.

More inconsistencies or misinformation surround the eastern North Carolina project:

  • The project was promoted as a renewable energy source that would help North Carolina reach Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards mandated by state law, but electricity from the Amazon Wind Farm does not count toward the REPS since the power is not being sold to any public utility doing business in North Carolina. (See related story here.)
  • Amazon officials claim that the output generated by the wind farm is considered confidential, competitive business information, a company spokesman told CJ. This is not true, Linowes said. The federal government tracks and publishes net generation for this and other private wind energy producers. “I am not surprised that you were misled, but he should have known that you might find the data,” she said. Then she showed CJ how to find it online.
  • The developer and the Obama administration misrepresented potential interference the Amazon Wind Farm might cause to a nearby Navy radar station, Linowes said. CJ previously has reported on this dispute. The interference issue was cited in January by Republican leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly when they asked the Trump administration to shut the project down.

In addition, early generation numbers obtained by CJ from the federal government indicate the project may not get enough wind at the site to reach its goal of 670,000 megawatt hours per year.

The Amazon project is located a few miles west of Elizabeth City and is the first and only industrial-scale wind generation project in the southeastern United States. Construction began in 2015 and it started producing electricity in December. The 208-megawatt project is comprised of 104 2-megawatt wind turbines using three wind blades. Each turbine has a 305-foot tower and a wind blade radius of 187 feet, reaching a total height of 492 feet from the ground. The overall footprint of the wind farm encompasses 22,000 acres.

The project was built and is operated by Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Iberdrola, a Spain-based company that operates approximately 50 other wind energy facilities in the United States. Amazon became a partner in the project in 2015 after it agreed to buy the power from the project. In official documents, it is known alternatively as the Amazon Wind Farm, the Desert Wind Farm, the Iberdrola Wind Farm, the Avangrid Renewables Wind Farm, or Atlantic Wind LLC.

Linowes has served as executive director and spokeswoman for WindAction since 2006. She tracks news and research pertaining to industrial wind and comments on the issue. She has authored more than 250 essays on wind energy issues and discussed the subject on CNN, NPR, and CBS News.