Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Statewide: Eastern region, September 2015

Amazon to the rescue

""Amazon came through with an important delivery in North Carolina: helping seal plans for a wind-energy farm that has been five years in the making. The state’s first commercial-scale wind farm, planned for 22,000 acres in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, faced political and economic headwinds before the e-commerce giant stepped up. Amazon agreed to purchase electricity generated from the U.S. arm of Iberdrola, Spain’s largest electric utility.

“The basic holdup through the process had to do with the ability to get a power-purchase agreement. It’s a massive capital investment of $400 million to $500 million,” says Wayne Harris, economic developer for Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County. “Most developers are unwilling to make that investment unless they have a 30-year agreement to sell the power.” To Iberdrola’s chagrin, tax credits from the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program expired before the company lined up a buyer for the power. “At that point, I thought the project was doomed, but the price of turbines dropped,” Harris says. “The turbines became more efficient, so Iberdrola stayed the course and found that with the right customers it could make the investment without the federal tax credit.”

Local officials didn’t find out until the night before July’s announcement that Amazon had agreed to buy the power. The Seattle-based company, which had revenue of $89 billion last year, will use the plant to power its data centers in Virginia and Ohio. Many tech companies have turned to alternative energy such as wind and solar to power their centers, which consume massive amounts of energy to store all the data created from orders, photos and other Internet activity. One of Amazon’s largest customers, entertainment service Netflix, had pressed the company for not relying more on renewable energy sources.  “We suspected it was not a garden variety utility because the customer had a concern about how the project would be branded,” Harris says.

Amazon’s wind farm promises major benefits for its host counties, which have a combined population of 53,000. Farmers can till most of the land hosting the 104 turbines — each is 492 feet from base to blade tip, or taller than a 20-story building. Landowners and the counties will be paid $6,000 and $5,000 per turbine, respectively. Iberdrola is expected to become the area’s largest taxpayer, paying about $520,000 a year to the two counties. Construction and related spending may pump $1.1 million into local coffers during construction, which is slated to wrap up by December 2016.


ROBERSONVILLEAR Textiles will create 38 jobs and invest $12 million in a cotton-yarn-manufacturing plant. Average annual wage for the jobs will be $26,316, lower than Martin County’s $39,037. The company, a division of India’s global conglomerate Sunflag, will receive a state grant of up to $114,400 if it meets job-creation goals.

WILMINGTON  — Chiltern will acquire Theorem Clinical Research, a contract-research organization based in King of Prussia, Pa., for an undisclosed amount. Based here and in London, Chiltern, a CRO, employs 2,200 people in 45 countries, including about 300 in North Carolina. Theorem employs about 1,500 people globally.

RALEIGH  — Duke Energy Progress completed its $1.25 billion purchase of the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency’s interest in four power plants in eastern N.C. The deal makes Duke Energy Progress, part of Charlotte-based Duke Energy, the sole owner of the power plants, located in Brunswick, Person and Wake counties and is expected to reduce electricity bills for about 270,000 residents.

GREENVILLEEast Carolina University will establish the Miller School of Entrepreneurship as part of its business college. ECU alum and Lenoir native J. Fielding Miller and his wife, Kim Grice Miller, have committed $5 million to create the school. Miller is the co-founder and CEO of Raleigh-based Captrust Financial Advisors.

WILMINGTONAir Wilmington, an aircraft-maintenance company at Wilmington International Airport, is investing $3 million in a 21,000- square-foot hangar for corporate aircraft. The airport serves about 800,000 passengers annually.

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