The Triangle’s First Solar Farm

May 22, 2014

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The Triangle now has its first solar farm! Strata Solar, based in Chapel Hill, finished its 43-acre solar panel farm in Rougement last week, which will create enough power for 750 homes.

What is a solar farm? The idea is simple. Build a large array of solar panels and create energy from the sun, selling it to the municipal energy grid and then to consumers. The idea may be simple, but using the technology and finding funding are far from easy. First, in order to install solar panels technicians must have training, and it takes time to set up and inspect the panels. Second, though prices for panels have come down, up front costs can still be pricey.

Strata has dealt with both obstacles to construct their solar farm and are building on their success for future projects. “Strata Solar has gotten more effective at constructing solar arrays,” writes Laura Oleniacz for The Herald Sun. With their experience, “they can build farms more quickly, with smaller construction crews.”

In addition, Strata has taken advantage of North Carolina’s renewable energy tax credit, which will expire in 2015. Though it is set to end, the credit currently “offers a tax credit for 35 percent of the cost of the project, up to $2.5 million per installation.” That’s an important percentage if combined with “a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost available for renewable energy projects.”

Now that the solar farm is in place, it can offer numerous benefits to both landowners and consumers. They are leasing the 43 acres from a local farmer, who receives “more income than they would get if they were trying to farm or it leasing to someone who’s trying to farm the land.” Those who need electricity can now purchase a clean source, not dependent on foreign or domestic fossil fuels. While this project will produce five megawatts of power, upcoming projects in North Carolina could produce as many as 20 megawatts.

With such plans in store, North Carolina is on track to meet its target of using renewable energy for 12.5% of electricity demand in 2021. It’s very possible that with rapid increases in efficiency and cost savings and companies like Strata leading the way, North Carolina could become a leader in renewable innovation now and in the future.

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