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The Daily Tar Heel :: Planned Chapel Hill solar farm would power 1,000 homes

A new Chapel Hill solar farm could bring clean power to about 1,000 homes if approved by the state Utilities Commission.

The 5-megawatt solar farm is an upcoming project of Strata Solar, a solar energy company based in Chapel Hill that provides solar energy systems for commercial and residential buildings.

If approved, the solar farm will be located on White Cross Road in Chapel Hill and will cost a projected $22.5 million.

The project is in its early stages and is awaiting approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

“It has been planned for a little while and the finalizing is really the first steps,” said Blair Schooff, vice president of marketing for Strata Solar.

If installed, it would also be one of the two largest solar farms in the state, even though it is a relatively small source of power.

UNC uses about 60 megawatts to power all campus utilities, according to the University’s energy dashboard — a continuously updating measure of energy use.

Stewart Boss, co-chairman of the UNC Sierra Student Coalition, said in an email that the project is still encouraging.

“All that progress is going to help us move North Carolina beyond coal and other dirty energy sources to clean, renewable electricity generation.”

Boss said North Carolina has a long way to go in terms of renewable energy, but the Triangle area is a leader in the movement.

“The Triangle has become a hub for solar energy companies and jobs, and the technology is getting cheaper and more efficient every day,” Boss said.

Strata Solar doesn’t know who it will sell the energy to, but has plans in the works.

“We are finalizing that now,” Schooff said. “The plan right now is to be working with Duke Energy.”

Strata Solar will soon begin to inform residents who live close to the planned site about the project, and Schooff said he hopes the town will support the plan.

“Usually what we find is that a lot of people are very interested in learning about this,” he said.

The group has done large installments in Kings Mountain and Avery, among other locations.

Schooff said neighbors of the company’s recent solar-panel project in Chatham County worried about how a solar farm would impact their community. But he said their concerns included fumes and noise, which don’t occur on a solar farm.

Strata Solar will have to go through a lengthy process to make their proposal a reality, but Chapel Hill residents are already predicting a positive impact from the solar farm.

Josh Gurlitz, chairman of Chapel Hill’s sustainability committee, said he thinks the solar farm will be a good demonstration of what Chapel Hill can do with solar energy.

“I think that the positives will be the ability to show that it can be successful,” he said. “The long range benefits will certainly be in whether or not we can replicate solar projects like this at a medium scale.”

Contact the City Editor 
at city@dailytarheel.com.

via The Daily Tar Heel :: Planned Chapel Hill solar farm would power 1,000 homes.