Where the North Carolina Wind Blows

December 9, 2022


Sheila Oliva

As a former corporate communications professional in the energy industry, Sheila helped educate external audiences on the potential and value of current and future technologies for powering our planet. Today, she is a freelance writer and student still exploring how people can live in harmony with the planet we inhabit.

North Carolina is a big, long, beautiful state. It offers diverse landscapes for residents to enjoy in almost every corner, including ocean views, lake views, mountain views, and city views. And then, of course, there is the serenity of the many farm views that our state’s fertile lands provide. 

Take cotton, for example. On a recent trip to the eastern part of North Carolina, I passed acres upon acres of this unique looking plant of white fluffiness surrounded by a rough, brown exterior and stem. As I zoomed along the two-lane highway, these crops virtually blanketed me with their comfort and pride in all that we are able to produce here amongst our many notable views.

Which brings me to the reason for my trip and the rather new and much-less-known North Carolina view. A new type of farm — that provides a new kind of crop — has sprung up not far from Belvidere.

The Desert Wind Farm (aka the Amazon Wind Farm US East) produces electricity that is used by Amazon’s data centers in Virginia. Like the crops that the wind turbines are planted amongst, this farm adds value to its community beyond the electricity it generates. Details on the economic, infrastructure, and employment benefits of the farm are outlined here.

And, while all of that is impressive and could be an interesting discussion to have, the purpose of my trip was much less exciting.

While I had worked in the alternative energy industry for many years, I had never been up close with a wind turbine. I had heard conflicting reports of their size, the noise they made, and what they looked like in real life. So, I jumped in my car in Raleigh and decided to once and for all experience a wind farm up close and personal.

It is hard to explain how utterly astonished I was by my reaction to glimpsing the first turbine. My initial emotion was surprise. In fact, it almost scared me, as I did not expect such a mammoth structure alongside the meandering two-lane country road. Also slightly unsettling was the fact that, despite its size, it barely made its presence known. I saw it, but I didn’t hear it. That, in turn, made me wonder if I was really seeing what I was seeing.

I got out of my car on numerous occasions, giddy like a small child at Disney for the first time. I was captivated by the views that I could see and capture from the road. I never went on private property to take pictures, yet I felt like I could reach out and touch several turbines that I encountered.

There were far more turbines than I thought, though the Desert Wind Farm is not considered a large farm. But the turbines seemed spread out and not crowded or ugly. In fact, some were difficult to detect at all on the cloudy day of my visit. I also noticed that no one stopped to ask me what I was up to. Perhaps the community is used to “out of towners” like me ogling their newest crop?

Whatever the case may be, my unencumbered exploration led to some pretty big hunger pains. Fortunately, the nearby town had an answer in the form of a restored Victorian that housed a delicious restaurant and small boutique gift shop. Only steps away was Layden’s Supermarket, my head swinging side to side to check out all the yummy treats they had in stock. With the help of their friendly staff, I managed to narrow down my purchase choices and left with some made-fresh-daily sausages, a jar of local honey, and some locally made chocolate-covered peanut brittle. Yes, it is all as good as it sounds. 

While my goal may have been simple — to see a wind turbine up close — the day far exceeded my expectations. I did not merely place a check mark next to a bucket list item. I got a feel for how wind power can be weaved into an already vibrant community. I was educated on what it’s like to generate power from nature in a place that already generates crops that feed and energize. And I got to explore yet another beautiful corner of our tremendous state. In my opinion, you can add this to the long list of amazing North Carolina views.