Promise made; promise kept
Published 6:07 am Monday, July 27, 2015
RALEIGH – When seeking the District 5 seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives last year, Howard Hunter III ran on a platform of improving infrastructure and seeking more opportunities for economic development within the four counties he now serves.
With the number of solar farms growing in the local area, it appears that Hunter has not forgotten the promises he made on the campaign trail.
Hertford County had one solar farm opened prior to Hunter moving from his county commissioner’s seat to the state General Assembly, but now there are two additional such facilities either already in operation or under construction.
Bertie County also has one solar farm in operation and two others are in the planning stages.
Poles are now being driven in the ground in Gates County on which solar panels will soon be operational.
“I’ve long been a supporter of renewable energy; whatever we can do, whatever it takes to help reduce our dependency on foreign oil,” Hunter said earlier this week before starting another day in the State House. “But yet I had a fight on my hands in the House to keep alive the tax incentives the state is offering renewable energy companies to do business in North Carolina.”
Hunter said a face-to-face meeting with House Speaker Tim Moore helped sway some needed votes to keep the renewal energy portfolio alive and well.
“It’s big business all across our state; just in my district alone there has been over a half-billion dollars invested in solar energy projects,” Hunter stated. “Those companies, to include SunEnergy I in Bertie and Hertford counties and O2EMC in GatesCounty, are helping to strengthen our tax base, even with the incentives they are receiving.”
Hunter added that in the case of SunEnergy I alone, their tax payments to the local counties equal roughly $300,000.
“That’s good for Tier 1 counties that so often have to play second fiddle to the urban areas of our state that always seem to land all the big business,” Hunter stressed. “It also means that our local landowners will be receiving monthly payments on the land leased to these solar farms….that money turns over in our local communities when those landowners make purchases here locally.”
Another key economic driver is that the construction firms building these solar farms are hiring local citizens to work on these projects. Hunter estimates roughly 1,000 jobs are or will be needed to fill for construction.
“Plus there’s money being spent to purchase the hardware needed to construct these solar farms,” he said.
As noted in earlier news stories, the tax incentives granted to these companies to build in North Carolina will expire at the end of the year.
“I would like to see those incentives extended,” Hunter said.
The renewable energy portfolio standard Hunter mentioned requires investor-owned utility companies like Duke Energy and Dominion-North Carolina Power to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.