07/26/13 — Solar farms pop up in county

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Solar farms pop up in county

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on July 26, 2013 1:46 PM

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DaQuan Hayes, Xavier Hill and Derick Brooks place poles that will hold solar panels at the solar farm near LaGrange early today. The workers are part of a team of about 65 people who form Strata Solar's weekend crew. The farm is expected to be in operation by early September.


Mount Olive's solar farm was finished in May. Goldsboro's was finished in June. LaGrange's is due to be completed in September. And if Strata Solar has anything to do with it, Wayne County could get a few more of the energy-creating farms.

Solar farms continue to crop up across Wayne and surrounding counties as the solar industry continues to grow in North Carolina, thanks in large part to Strata Solar.

Strata Solar, the biggest solar energy company in the state, based in Chapel Hill, has taken an interest in eastern North Carolina's flat land, good electrical infrastructure and agreeable local governments as support of the company's expansion.

For the most part, Strata Solar uses a typical layout to create solar farms capable of producing 6.5 megawatts per hour of direct current at peak operating periods.

"Our business model is to do these things as cookie cutter as possible," said John Morrison, Strata Solar's chief operating officer.

So far, the company's three solar farms in Wayne County -- labeled Mount Olive 2, AM Best and Moorings -- use the 6.5 MW "cookie cutter" model.

Mount Olive 2 is located on Bert Martin Road in Mount Olive. AM Best is located in between North William Street and U.S. 117 north of Fedelon Trail. And Moorings is located on Piney Grove Road near LaGrange. Moorings is still under construction and is scheduled for completion sometime near Labor Day.

As for surrounding counties, Kinston had a ribbon cutting on Tuesday to celebrate the opening of two solar farms in Lenoir County, labeled Lenoir 1 and Lenoir 2. Strata Solar also has solar farm projects pending in Wilson County. Duplin County has a total of 15 solar farms in development, and Strata Solar has its hand in a 100 MW solar farm currently in development just west of Warsaw.

Mount Olive is also looking at a solar farm bigger than Strata Solar's 6.5 MW modus operandi. A 20 MW solar farm is scheduled to go up at the intersection of U.S. 117 and Main Street.

Each 6.5 MW solar farm brings about $1 million to a community in construction costs through payroll and direct expenditures. Typically, construction lasts about 120 days. Annual equipment taxes also add money to the local tax base.

Strata Solar creates 6.5 MW farms because energy operations under a certain size aren't required to negotiate the terms of conditions with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

That law -- created in the 1980s -- allows Strata to build solar farms at a rapid pace. In the second half of 2013, Strata is expected to start construction on a new solar farm every week.