Op-Ed: ULRICH TOMBUELT: Wind energy poised to boost N.C.’s economy

Source: By Ulrich Tombuelt, WRAL • Posted: Friday, February 22, 2019

With North Carolina’s legislative session well-underway, I have a renewed optimism about many exciting new economic development and employment opportunities for communities all across the state. The end of 2018 marked the end of our state’s two-year moratorium on wind energy developments, which has unnecessarily put a hold on new wind projects in eastern North Carolina.

More importantly, the moratorium kept the state from financial investments, construction and full-time jobs, manufacturing opportunities, and resulting property tax revenues for rural communities that would have been a shot in the arm for many areas.

We can focus now on the road ahead and the prospect for our state’s economy to reap significant benefits as the wind energy industry is poised to thrive – both nationally and locally – this year.

While North Carolina’s 104-turbine wind farm near Elizabeth City certainly provides its own array of economic benefits, the wind industry’s benefits are much more far-reaching than just the eastern part of our state. The Tar Heel state is home to 26 manufacturing facilities that make components of wind turbines, which are shipped and incorporated into projects across the nation and around the world.

These manufacturers employ nearly 600 North Carolinians, in small towns and big cities, from Asheville to Charlotte to Morehead City, bringing in nearly $800 million in annual revenue.

I serve as the chief operating officer of one of these manufacturing companies, SAERTEX. We are a global textile manufacturer with our U.S. headquarters in Huntersville, employing 240 local citizens who produce materials used in the construction of wind turbine blades. Our products are made right here in North Carolina and are used in wind projects all over the country.

Another example is NEG, a fiberglass manufacturing facility located in Shelby in Cleveland County, whose products are also used in the construction of wind turbines. There’s also HYDAC, a company in Lincoln County, which manufactures cooling systems for wind turbines.  And the list goes on.

I’m part of a business that benefits from the expansion of the wind industry, so certainly there are practical reasons why I would like to see our state and our nation deploy more wind energy, but there are personal reasons, too. When I joined SAERTEX in 2016, I moved my family here. We bought a house in Huntersville and we embraced North Carolina as our home. I care about wind energy because I want to see our state’s economy thrive.  I care about wind energy because I support clean, affordable energy that helps make our communities and economy more resilient.

I’m encouraged about the outlook, both nationally and in North Carolina, for the expansion of wind energy opportunities, and I’m most excited about its positive economic benefits that are on our horizon. The more wind energy is adopted – including more wind farms sited in eastern North Carolina – the more opportunity there is for the related manufacturing sector to thrive, creating and sustaining good-paying jobs, boosting the state’s economy, and helping make our communities and clean energy economy stronger.

Ulrich Tombuelt is vice president of operations for SAERTEX, a manufacturer in Mecklenburg County.