No one is saying solar panels are replacing a traditional cash crop locally such as tobacco, but Surry County is getting its third solar farm just the same.
O2Energies, a firm near Charlotte that already has built two such facilities in the Mount Airy area, soon will be developing another in the Pine Ridge section.
“It will be similar in size to the Ararat Rock Solar Farm Project,” O2Energies Managing Director Joel Olsen said Friday of the latest facility eyed for a site on Paul Isaacs Road in comparison to its second.
The 3.5-megawatt (AC or alternating current) solar photovoltaic electric generating plant will be developed on land Olsen’s company is acquiring from Bobby and Sylvia Harrold. Its location in a large field on Paul Isaacs Road is off Oak Grove Church Road near the intersection of N.C. 89-West and Interstate 77.
O2Energies’ new entity will be known as Cirrus Solar LLC.
“We hope that we will be able to get started in 2013 and get finished by the end of the year,” Olsen added Friday.
O2Energies already has seven solar-generating plants online, including the two built here. The first is near the Mount Airy Wastewater Treatment Plant just south of the city limits. The second, Ararat Rock Solar Farm on Quarry Road, started producing electricity in October.
The development of such facilities is resulting from a mandate that major electrical companies such as Duke Energy supply a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources, including solar.
Local Utility Involved
While O2Energies’ two existing facilities in Surry are connected to the Duke Energy grid, the new plant will supply Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. headquartered in Dobson.
“This will be the first time we’ve worked with Surry Yadkin-Electric and we’re very excited about that,” Olsen said.
The company official explained that he was introduced to Bobby Harrold through one of his local contacts involved with the previous solar developments in Surry, and matters progressed from there.
The county’s topography and climate is considered well-suited for the production of solar energy. It also allows open land that might once have been used for agricultural production and now is sitting empty to have a new purpose.
Farming also is part of O2Energies’ local projects so far, with Olsen pointing out that sheep have been grazing around the rows of solar collectors at both sites and allowed the animals’ owner to increase the size of his flock.
Based on the success of those two facilities and contacts made here, Olsen is entertaining the development of other solar-production farms in Surry in addition to the new one planned on Paul Isaacs Road.
An application for a certificate of public conveyance and necessity has been filed for it with the N.C. Utilities Commission in Raleigh. The process involved allows citizens to lodge any complaints they might have regarding the facility before the application is granted.
Along with perpetuating green energy sources, Olsen said a side benefit involves employment opportunities for local residents, including developments both here and similar ones elsewhere.
“We’ve now done two projects in Mount Airy and we have subcontractors and experienced people who can work on the projects who live in Surry County,” he said. “It makes sense for us to work with them again.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.