The theme of this year’s ‘State of the Region’ focused on the fusion, or inter-relationship, of logistics and energy, branded as LogiSynErgy. Speakers from Iberdrola Renewables, CSX Transportation, and the NC Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Quality discussed the anticipated impact of transportation and energy projects planned for Eastern North Carolina that amount to more than $2.5 billion of capital investment in energy and transportation infrastructure.
On Wednesday, April 20th, business, community and government leaders from across eastern North Carolina gathered in Greenville for the NCEast Alliance annual meeting. The theme of this year’s ‘State of the Region’ focused on the fusion, or inter-relationship, of logistics and energy, branded as LogiSynErgy. Speakers from Iberdrola Renewables, CSX Transportation, and the NC Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Quality discussed the anticipated impact of transportation and energy projects planned for Eastern North Carolina that amount to more than $2.5 billion of capital investment in energy and transportation infrastructure. Presentations from the event were all intertwined, revealing the importance of pursuing the development of alternative/green energy as well as traditional energy sources such as natural gas, and having viable transportation corridors and hubs.
Improved infrastructure and the designation of future interstates in the east are now opening more direct and faster lanes for transport. This is especially important for manufacturers as well as companies like Iberdrola as they navigate the logistics of transporting components for their wind turbines into Perquimans and Pasquotank counties via road, rail, ships (via ports) and barges. The future interstate designation also means improved efficiency for truck drivers. According to Charles Edwards, Director of Freight and Logistics Planning for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, “Every traffic signal means an extra minute and a half of driving. This is especially important for truck drivers because it cuts into their daily drivable hours.” Charles goes on to say, “the interstate designations in the east means truck drivers will know that this is an area they can serve effectively and efficiently”.
Wind energy is making a powerful impact in eastern NC. The Amazon Wind Farm US East, operated by Iberdrola Renewables at Desert Wind, is the first utility-scale wind farm in North Carolina and one of the first in the southeastern United States. The first phase, a $400 million, 208 megawatt (MW) project, will feature 104 wind turbines. The facility, if fully built out, could deploy 150 wind turbines that would generate 300 MW of power at full capacity (at a total cost exceeding $1 billion) and provide millions of dollars in tax and landowner revenue for decades. Total tax revenues and payments to farmers and landowners in the two counties for the first phase of the project will inject more than $1.1 million into the local economy each year. About 250 construction jobs will support the 18-month building period, and 10 permanent jobs will be based at the wind farm when it is in full operation, anticipated during the fourth quarter of 2016.
Solar farms have also spread across the eastern North Carolina landscape representing over $1 billion of investment in distributed power generation. More than 722 MW of capacity has been deployed in 19 counties in the region over the last five years. According to Chief Deputy Secretary John Evans with the NC Department of Environmental Quality, “North Carolina is a leader in solar energy, it makes up an important part of how the state provides electricity. In fact, in the fourth quarter of 2015 30% of all US solar installations occurred in North Carolina, primarily in eastern North Carolina.”
Natural gas is impacting the state as well; Duke Energy’s conversion of their plants from coal to gas lowers costs and emissions and reduces the threat of coal ash contamination. Evans stressed, “Energy is critical to economic development because low energy prices are a draw to industry. We need clean, affordable energy and we have proven that we can do that.” By keeping the the costs of energy low, North Carolina has positioned itself to be a cost effective state to do business.
Logistics and energy consumption as well as the associated environmental impacts are correlated; for example, rail freight can lower the cost of transporting goods as well as reducing the carbon footprint of moving goods when compared to moving freight by truck. The lower fuel consumption means lower emissions which amounts to cleaner air.
The presentations by Carl Warren and Jim van derZee, representatives of CSX Transportation, underscored the importance of intermodal facilities such as the proposed CCX rail intermodal facility planned for eastern North Carolina. Beyond the positive environmental effects by taking trucks off the road, thereby reducing congestion, the CCX would also greatly improve the opportunity for expansion of existing manufacturers and distributors as well as the recruitment of new industry. As more of these projects land in the region, the need for interconnectivity becomes increasingly important. Access to rail and ports paired with the future interstate designations of Highways 70 and 64 positions the region to be a competitive location for new and existing companies.
This year’s ‘State of the Region’ report reinforced the importance of LogiSynErgy. Infrastructure and energy supply projects will improve our logistics as well as our environment across the entire region; benefitting both rural and urban areas. Energy projects in particular are infusing significant investments into our local economies. As John Chaffee CEO and president of NCEast Alliance explained, “Rural communities have limited opportunities to attract large industrial projects, but a large solar farm locating in one of those communities can have a very positive impact on the local tax base. The Alliance intends to stay focused on activities that will promote job creation across the entire region,” continued Chaffee “and we will explore all possibilities that show a reasonable return on investment.”
The NCEast Alliance is a regional, public/private, not-for-profit, economic development corporation serving over two dozen counties with approximately 1.3 million residents in several small metropolitan and micropolitan areas in eastern North Carolina. The region extends from the fringe of the Research Triangle to the Atlantic Coast and from Jacksonville/Onslow County to the Virginia state line. The Alliance provides community capacity building, marketing/lead generation, and assists companies with site location and expansion evaluations. For more information on the NCEast Alliance, visit us at www.nceast.org or visit one of our workforce development sites (www.ncworkready.org or www.stemeast.org)