Wadesboro Solar Farm aims to provide local energy, jobs

By: By Natalie Davis - ndavis@ansonrecord.com
Children gather around sheep that will be used to graze Wadesboro Solar Farm, a project of O2 EMC midway through construction.

Wadesboro Solar Farm is in mid-construction and, when complete, Duke Energy Progress will distribute the electricity generated there to schools, homes, and business in the area during daylight hours.

The farm is a project of Cornelius-based O2 EMC. Project Development Associate Charlotte Brown said the company strives to find potential project sites “as close to home as possible.”

“We found the site online and met with the landowner and the realtor,” she said. “We expressed interest in the property and told them about our company and what we hoped to accomplish on the site.”

Developing a solar project is expensive, complicated and full of risk, Brown added.

She said that they were honest with the landowner, telling her that they may not be successful getting Duke to allow them to interconnect and buy the power the site would generate.

“We told her that we may not be able to get the zoning or permits necessary to build the project,” Brown said. “Fortunately, the landowner was patient and interested in the seeing something positive built on the land.”

The biggest challenge, according to Brown, was that Duke changed it policies for interconnection in 2016, making most projects that has requested interconnection across the state unfeasible. She also said that O2 had to work closely with legal and regulatory authorities, as well as with engineers to demonstrate why the Wadesboro Solar project should be allowed to interconnect to the electrical grid.

O2 met with neighbors, town and county officials and other local stakeholders in the summer of 2016 to present the project —which has to be approved by state and federal environmental and wildlife agencies — and answer any questions.

“After almost two years, with the help of the town, the county, and the Chamber of Commerce, the project was ready to be built,” Brown said. “O2 emc strives to maximize the local impact of our solar projects, so we hired a North Carolina contractor which in turn hires local subcontractors and local workers for our projects.”

Once complete, Brown estimates that more than 100 Ansonians will have worked on the project.

“This includes workers on our construction team, as well as workers from local business whose services were used during the construction process,” she said.

According to a press release, the 5-megawatt solar farm will generate more than 11,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year — enough to power 1,000 average American homes.

Anson County will increase its property tax revenue from the property by more than 98 percent. Before the solar farm, the county received around $700 each year in property taxes from the previous landowner. Once the solar farm is complete, the county is expected to rake in around $32,000.

In addition, the project will purchase supplies and use resources from companies in Anson county, according to the release. The solar farm will also serve as an asset to be used for educational opportunities for local students and workers.

O2 EMC hired North Carolina contractor E8 Energy Group to manage the construction of this project.

“O2 and E8 have strived to hire 80 percent of the workforce for the Wadesboro Solar project from within a 30-mile radius of this project,” said Chad Botner, CEO of E8 Energy Group.

The solar farm was designed to use a Schletter fixed-tilt racking system that is produced in Shelby.

“Schletter loves partnering with our customers in North Carolina and we are excited about the announcement of the Wadesboro Solar project,” said Ryan Kelly, vice president of sales and marketing for Schletter Inc. “We pride ourselves on doing business with companies in North Carolina and across the Southeast.”

Kelly also said that the majority of the materials that go into the systems are sourced from companies in the Carolinas.

“We are passionate about continuing to bring solar projects to North Carolina, bringing more jobs and educating local communities about the importance of solar,” Kelly said.

As stated in the release, O2 emc believes that sustainable energy and sustainable agriculture complement each other. In order to foster this relationship, they use sheep to graze at each of their solar farms instead of “fuel-powered mowers and harsh chemicals.”

Wadesboro Solar Farm will create 55 acres of new pasture for a local farmer to host a herd of sheep.

After the grand opening, everyone was given a chance to tour the solar farm.

“We also want to thank our suppliers, contractors and partners on the project,” Brown said.

These partners include: Fifth Third Bank, E8 energy group, Canal Wood, Max Kendall Trucking Inc, Pee Dee Electric, Hildreth Ready Mixed, Fortress Fencing, Executive Inn, Acton Mobile, City Electric Supply, Hard Hat Workforce Solutions, High Voltage Specialists, ProTech Environmental Supply, Inc, United Rentals, United Site Services, Alro Steel, L&M Supply, Terracon, Strike L&M, and Oliver’s Restaurant.

Children gather around sheep that will be used to graze Wadesboro Solar Farm, a project of O2 EMC midway through construction.
https://ansonrecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_solarsheep.jpgChildren gather around sheep that will be used to graze Wadesboro Solar Farm, a project of O2 EMC midway through construction.

By Natalie Davis

ndavis@ansonrecord.com