News: Quick Takes

Energy from Amazon Wind Farm doesn’t help N.C. meet renewable mandate

CJ photo
CJ photo

The facility now known as the Amazon Wind Farm was approved by state regulators after they were told it would provide part of the electric power necessary for the state to satisfy renewable energy mandates passed in 2007 by the General Assembly.

But it doesn’t supply any of that energy, signaling another instance of what critics consider frequent deception by the wind industry intended to fool the public into authorizing its projects. (See related story here.)

In May 2011, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved Atlantic Wind LLC’s application to build a 300-MW wind facility in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties and register it as a “New Renewable Energy Facility.” The approval, in part, was granted based on testimony from Jay Lucas, an electrical engineer with the Utilities Commission Public Staff’s Electrical Division. “Lucas testified that the facility is needed to provide renewable energy that will help electric power suppliers in North Carolina meet the requirements of Senate Bill 3, which was enacted in 2007,” the approved order stated.

S.B. 3 established REPS for North Carolina public utilities. The requirements were for renewables, including wind and solar, to comprise 6 percent of the previous year’s retail sales in 2015, 10 percent in 2018, and 12.5 percent in 2021.

For the Amazon Wind Farm to count towards a utility’s REPS requirement, the environmental attributes — or “greenness” — of the energy produced at the site would have to be bought by a North Carolina power company. The attributes are measured in Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs. One megawatt hour equals one REC. The actual power and the RECs can be sold to different parties.

In August 2015, the Utilities Commission revoked the registration of 127 renewable energy facilities because “their owners had not completed or filed the annual certifications required each April 1 as detailed” by commission rules. One of those facilities was Atlantic Wind, which later became known as the Amazon Wind Farm. After this revocation, the facility could not participate in the North Carolina in RECS program or have its renewable energy count in the REPS program.

“The commission approved the project under the false promise that it would lead to more renewable energy in North Carolina when, in fact, the energy and its environmental attributes are going elsewhere,” Lisa Linowes, executive director of the New Hampshire-based WindAction Group, told Carolina Journal.

James McLawhorn, director of the Electrical Division of the Public Staff of the N.C. Utilities Commission, monitors utility company compliance with REPS. McLawhorn told CJ that electricity from the Amazon Wind Farm doesn’t help North Carolina meet its renewable energy goals. “My understanding is that since Amazon is claiming the electricity is for its use, the electricity at the Amazon Wind Farm is not counted toward the renewable standards for any North Carolina electric utility,” he said.