Hertford County attracts another ‘green’ energy company

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MURFREESBORO – Another renewable energy operation has its sights set on Hertford County.

Groundbreaking is expected this spring near Murfreesboro at what will become North Carolina’s largest solar farm to date. GreenCo Solutions and North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) will purchase renewable energy certificates and electricity, respectively, from a new solar project Duke Energy is acquiring from SunPower in Hertford County.

When completed later this year, the solar farm will be capable of generating enough electricity to power about 700 average-sized homes.

According to Bill Early, Hertford County’s Economic Development Director, the solar farm will be built on a 37 acre leased tract of land located just east of the Murfreesboro Bypass. It will be a multi-million dollar investment.

“We’ve been working on this project for a little over one year,” Early said. “We are thrilled that this particular site was chosen here in our county.”

Early also touched on the fact that Hertford County is becoming a popular site for ‘green’ energy operations. Enviva LP of Richmond, Va. is currently converting the old Georgia-Pacific property on NC 561 East in Ahoskie to open a bio-mass wood pellets processing plant. That facility will open in November.

“With all the changes taking place in the nation today in regards to becoming less dependent on fossil fuel, Hertford County is at the forefront of attracting renewable energy companies,” Early noted.   “Hertford County is positioning itself well for others to follow. That’s due in part to our county and municipal leaders being extremely progressive in their thinking to attract these types of businesses. I also believe that these companies are finding out that we’re very business-friendly here in Hertford County.”

GreenCo Solutions, a company owned by 22 electric cooperatives, will buy all renewable energy certificates generated by the facility to assist its members in meeting their solar power requirement under the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). GreenCo executed a 20-year purchase agreement with Duke Energy Renewables, a newly renamed part of Duke Energy’s unregulated, commercial business.

The electricity produced by the solar farm will be purchased by NCEMC, the power supply organization for the majority of the state’s electric cooperatives, under a 20-year agreement.

Duke Energy Renewables acquired the Murfreesboro project in December 2010 from SunPower Corp., which designed and will build the solar photovoltaic system. SunPower will mount nearly 20,000 high-efficiency crystalline silicon panels at the site on SunPower T0 Tracker® technology. T0 Trackers use a global positioning satellite system to follow the sun’s movement during the day. This increases sunlight capture by up to 25 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems, while significantly reducing land use requirements.

“We are pleased to announce our participation in one of the state’s largest solar projects,” said Rick Thomas, CEO of NCEMC and GreenCo Solutions, in a press release. “This project will provide 20 years of clean, renewable electricity to our members and help GreenCo cooperatives meet the solar requirements of the N.C. REPS.”

“Duke Energy Renewables is committed to helping our valued customers incorporate renewable energy into their long-term plans,” said Greg Wolf, Duke Energy Renewables president. “Through this power purchase agreement, GreenCo and NCEMC’s member cooperatives have locked in renewable energy certificates and a supply of affordable, zero-emissions electricity for decades to come.”

“Solar photovoltaic technology is a reliable, cost-effective energy resource that can be installed anywhere – from rooftops to power plants,” said Howard Wenger, president of SunPower’s utility and power plants business group. “SunPower’s world-leading high-efficiency technology and history of reliable performance will maximize the solar energy delivered to NCEMC’s customers.”

The Murfreesboro Solar Project is Duke Energy Renewables’ third commercial solar farm in North Carolina and fourth nationwide. Duke Energy Renewables’ initiatives are separate from the activities of Duke Energy Carolinas, which is part of Duke Energy’s regulated business.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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