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100MW Solar Project Planned For North Carolina

Strata Solar is planning a 100-megawatt (MW) solar power farm in Duplin County, North Carolina, about 40 miles north of Wilmington and the same distance from the eastern coast. When finished, this new solar power facility will actually be one of the largest east of the Mississippi River.

UNC–Chapel Hill campus via Bad thorn / Wiki Commons

Currently, no solar farm in North Carolina is anywhere near the size of the planned Strata Solar project. For the sake of comparison, one of the leading energy companies in North Carolina — Duke Energy — has about 26 MW of solar power in operation providing enough electricity for up to approximately 3,900 homes (when there is adequate sunshine).

Photovoltaics will be used to cover about 400 acres of land, and roughly 400 workers will be employed during the construction phase. Total cost is an estimated $250 million. Solar panels will be provided by Canadian Solar, an Ontario-based company. The Duplin County installation will sell electricity to Progress Energy Carolinas.

Strata Solar is based in Chapel Hill. In 2012, it hired about 170 workers to construct other solar projects in North Carolina. “Too often job creation gets left out of the solar discussion,” explained CEO Markus Wilhelm. “We recently started construction on our fifth and sixth farms in our  southeastern cluster where we have been employing a similar number of dedicated employees since the start of the year.”

His point about job creation is a great one, because renewable energy stories in the news often leave out the number of jobs created, even if they aren’t permanent. The official unemployment rate in North Carolina is about 9.2%, though it might be higher.

In 2011, North Carolina had 45.5 MW of grid-connected solar power installed, which ranked it ninth in the nation.

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