Solar Farm Plan Moving Forward in Orange County

The Orange County Board of Commissioners is moving forward with a plan that will allow a solar farm to be built on a 52-acre patch of land off of Highway 70 West.

The plan was made by solar energy companies Calvert Energy and ESA Renewables. Calvert Energy CEO Brian Quinlan presented the plan to the board Monday night. Quinlan says the companies need approval of a special permit to allow for the zoning of the solar panels.

“It’s been reviewed fairly extensively by both the clearing house at the state level with a variety of different departments here at the county level.”

Quinlan also says the 52-acres of land are the perfect type to develop this type of solar project.

“The site is surrounded by a lot of wetlands and water features, which makes it a difficult development from a higher-intensity perspective. But for lower intensity development, like a solar project, it works very well.”

But even though the land is good for the solar panels, Commissioner Barry Jacobs asked at the hearing whether the solar panels would be bad for animals already living on the land.

Chris Sandifer is an engineering consultant for solar farm siting. He attended the hearing to answer questions and provide testimony. He says nothing would be harmed.

“No sir. I’m not aware of any study that shows that it causes wildlife a problem.”

Sandifer also says the panels won’t harm people either.

“There’s no smell; there’s no dust; there’s no radiation; these panels use no nuclear radiation.”

Quinlan says the point of the solar farm is to do good and not bad to all who live in Orange County.

“Solar projects are safe for the community. They develop their power at a low-voltage level. All of the wiring and components are underwriter laboratory approved, the design is approved by the county, we have to get a construction permit to make sure that we’re meeting all the local codes.”

If approved, nce the design and construction process are started, the plan is expected to take about six months to install once the design and construction process has started.

Orange County Welcomes Solar Power

White Cross Farm

CHAPEL HILL – The sun’s rays now cannot only brighten your days, but also your home.

In early July, Strata Solar teamed with Orange County to begin construction on a 35-acre, six-megawatt solar farm on White Cross Farm in Chapel Hill.

After about twelve weeks of construction to install more than 26,000 solar panels, the sun’s light will provide power to about 750 homes in the area, says Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Strata, Blair Schoff. Schoff says, though more difficult, the builders even continued to make progress during the heavy rains of early July.

He says the construction can take up to 120 workers to get the land ready, drive posts, mount solar panels, and wire the electrical work.

Schoff says the farm generates power, which is sold to utility companies, and businesses and residents close to White Cross Farm will consume most of the solar power.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is add additional green power to the grid,” says Schoff. “It helps the utilities because a lot of their peak demand is during the day when businesses and air conditioners are being used at their peak and we’re providing them the alternative of having energy generated by the sun added to this mix.”

Schoff says Duke Energy will receive the solar power from White Cross Farm, and then provide it to local residential and commercial clients.

He says using solar power benefits the environment and eliminates 4,224 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted annually by other power sources, like coal.

“There’s no moving parts,” says Schoff. “There’s no noxious fumes. There’s no liquids being dropped into the soil. It’s very clean, renewable. It’s an excellent source of renewable generation.”

Solar power relies on electrons for power.

“Solar panels, the type that we use, it’s essentially silica that’s cut into wafers,” says Schoff. “One of them has a treatment on it with an element that is interested in yielding electrons. Another wafer has a treatment on it with an element that is interested in gaining electrons. Those two wafers are essentially sandwiched together. The photon, from the sun, of enough energy catalyzes the reaction where that electron from one wafer is liberated and is finding its way toward the electron on other and we try to harness as many of those electrons as we can and use them as power.”

Many farms have the necessities for a solar farm, but Schoff says White Cross met the standards.

“There’s a certain criteria that we look for in any of our farms,” says Schoff. “Having a farm that’s flat with access to the appropriate infrastructure are the key components. White Cross and that property just happened to pick all the boxes to make an appropriate solar farm.”

Headquartered in Chapel Hill, Schoff says Strata Solar is excited to build so close to home.

Strata Solar is in the midst providing solar power to many other places across the state. It is developing eight farms in the Triangle and two in Orange County.

Schoff says everywhere could benefit from solar power.

“All counties have a need for solar power,” said Schoff. “It’s not just Orange County. It’s the state of North Carolina. It’s the country.”

For more information on Strata Solar, click here.