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Moratorium Leaves NC Wind Energy, Farmers in Holding Pattern

A profile of Chowan County and the potential positive impact wind energy may have on the community. (Southeastern Wind Coalition)
April 23, 2018

EDENTON, N.C. — North Carolina's farming communities are struggling after several seasons of extreme weather and unseasonable temperatures. There is one “crop” that could offer more consistent income - but they can't take advantage of it.

The state currently has a moratorium on wind energy development, which has affected people like Gene Jordan. He's a seventh-generation farmer in Chowan County, and already has plans to install turbines on his land once the 18-month period is over.

"It's so potentially good for our farm,” Jordan said. “It promises to give us a reliable source of income, where the income from farming is often unreliable, because of the weather and because of the vagaries of the market."

Lawmakers put the moratorium in place after some had concerns over interference with military bases located in parts of the state. The Pentagon already has a thorough vetting process for every wind-energy project.

Parts of rural Minnesota have installed turbines that have generated $1 million a year in property taxes, and $250,000 in lease payments to land owners. Jordan can't help but chuckle when he thinks of what his forefathers would think of his solution to preserve the farm - but he feels they'd give him a thumbs up.

"Prior generations would want the farm to continue and want the farm to be profitable,” he said. “The wind turbines themselves have very small footprints and out in the middle of the field, they'll just be a quarter of an acre and we'll farm normally the rest of the acreage. "

Jordan also serves on the Edenton-Chowan school board, where 60 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

"If we're going to compete, we have to find a way to pay for things, and this is an opportunity to do that,” he said. “It is a struggle. We see the resources other places have, and we don't like the fact that we are struggling to provide resources for our students. "

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, North Carolina has the capacity to produce enough wind energy to provide 8 percent of the state's electricity consumption.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC