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.

White Cross Volunteer Fire Department Set To Expand

CARRBORO – The White Cross Volunteer Fire Department is expanding to better provide safety to the houses in its district.

Currently White Cross plans to renovate its current facility on Old Greensboro Rd. and build a new station on Neville Road.

White Cross Board of Directors president, Tony Blake explains the reason for the expansion.

“We’re out of space and we needed to expand our building, now, we realized that years ago and decided to take advantage of USDA funds at a very low rate” Blake commented.

Blake says White Cross plans to use U.S. Department of Agriculture loans only to renovate their current station, and will use the amount the county allots for building the new station on Neville Road.

On June 4, White Cross had a meeting with the CountyCommissioners to discuss the plans to build the new fire station and hear concerns from people in the area.

“Yes, we believe that it falls within the budget, and that was what we went to talk with the County Commissioners, and showed them our figures; but we believe that there is a good value for the residents here” Blake said.

Some people have expressed concerns over building the new fire station in a residential area. Blake says the White Cross Fire Department heard several of these concerns at the Commissioners’ meeting and responded to the people and commissioners with a letter answering many questions.

He says White Cross plans to hold a community meeting when time permits to address any additional concerns.

The location for the new building took a couple years to find, and Blake says will have positive benefits for more than 500 houses in the White Cross district.

“We looked at several parcels of lands over two years and none of them met the criteria, and so the Neville Road location was by far the best location we could find” Blake said.

One of the benefits for 500 houses in the White Cross district is a lower insurance rating. In North Carolina, houses receive insurance ratings based on how far they are from a fire station, and more than five miles away receives a much higher rate. By building the new station on Neville Road, several houses in the eastern region of their district will now be within five miles and get lower insurance rates.

The new station will hold a tanker that the fire station does not currently have and will allow for its staff to better protect the area.  The current White Cross facility uses an outdoor shed to store some vehicles in winter, making it difficult to use them in an emergency. Also, after building the new facility, White Cross wants to hire two more paid staff members to assist the current single paid staff member for the station.

White Cross is always looking for volunteers to help its cause and assist in any way.  Not all volunteers need to be firefighters; Blake says the station has a need for volunteers with any professional or support services like bookkeeping, electricians, plumbers, legal, and web page maintenance.

“Who ever would like to help us ad contribute, that’s what keeps the cost low and makes it work” Blake says.

For more information, you can visit the White Cross website by clicking here.

The letter that White Cross sent to the Commissioners answers questions that people asked during the meeting is also available click here to view.