3.5 MW AC | Fairmont, NC | Commissioned Sept. 2012
Small towns like Fairmont in Robeson County welcome solar farms in rural North Carolina
October 17th, 2012 - FAIRMONT, NC – O2 Energies Inc.'s solar farms are producing some welcome benefits for North Carolina's small towns. Today marks the opening of the Fairmont Solar Farm in eastern North Carolina.
North Carolina-based O2 Energies' began working with officials from the Town of Fairmont and the Robeson County Economic Development Commission in 2011, to construct two 25 acre solar farms in Fairmont and Maxton.
The obvious dividends include new jobs and job training, particularly during construction when the projects employed up to 120 people; a boost to the property-tax base that provide additional revenue for the town and the county; a reliable source of income for farmers who lease or sell a non-productive portion of their land to O2 Energies; and, of course, sustainable, affordable electricity produced without noise or pollution.
O2 Energies' projects also are giving residents renewed hope and optimism about their towns' and county's future prosperity, according to local officials.
“Any time you've got people investing money into your area, it certainly gives folks an opportunity to feel good about what's going on,” said State Senator Michael P. Walters.
Walters district includes Robeson and Hoke County in eastern North Carolina where O2 Energies will build two 4.5-megawatt solar farms. Both are projects will add an estimated $3 million each to Robeson County's tax base.
Eastern North Carolina is already home to several companies in the solar supply chain including Pilkington, which manufactures glass, and Dupont which employs more than 500 North Carolinans and exports more than $1 Billion of materials to the solar industry.
“We develop every O2 energies solar farm to maximize the work opportunities for local suppliers, contractors and citizens.” says O2 energies, president Olee Joel Olsen. A native of North Carolina, Olsen believes solar will claim an increasing part of the state’s electrical generation capacity creating jobs and private investment across the supply chain in rural areas like Robeson county.
“It is important to us to use high quality components that also create American jobs across the supply chain” said Olsen. “ O2 energies selected the Renewable Energy Corporation to supply solar modules, a company that employs almost 1000 Americans to manufacture the solar grade silicon used in the modules. Advanced Energy, another US based company in Colorado, designed, developed and manufactured the inverters used on the projects.
To oversee construction of the project, O2 energies selected REC Solar, one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-experienced solar-energy system integrators. “Since these were REC Solar’s first two projects in North Carolina, we knew they would use the local workforce, and local contractors to build the array,” said Olsen.
"We worked with a terrific team of dedicated local partners, “ said Andy Noel, Director of Utility Scale EPC for REC Solar. "Between O2 Energies, Robeson County, and the REC-contracted local crew, this project is truly a product of North Carolina in origins and construction. We look forward to working with all of these parties again and further helping North Carolina continue to expand its clean energy economy while fueling local job creation."
Townspeople quickly embraced the Fairmont Solar project, but Mayor Kemp is hopeful that O2 Energies' choice of Fairmont will influence some young people's attitudes about living and working in a small town. Kemp explained, “This solar farm is located right beside Fairmont high school giving our teachers an opportunity to create field trips to the site and use it in their lesson plans to inspire our students to learn more about all forms of energy, and the career opportunities this the industry can provide them.'”
“This is outstanding,” said Country Commissioner Tom Taylor. “These farms don’t interfere with anyone. They just sit there and make money. This is a win-win situation for everyone.”
County Commissioner Oxendine said, “Any time you can create work opportunities for 100 people in our county during a recession, it’s a good thing.”
Greg Cummings, Robeson County's director of economic development, said the county welcomes the new jobs and capital investment.
“You can't beat this type of electricity. It's very safe, clean, even looks good out in the pastures. Quite a few of our citizens are getting retrained through Robeson Community College to help put the equipment in, and the solar companies are putting them into jobs. O2's investment is going to create a revenue stream back into the county, and it will definitely strengthen our tax base. They're also working with our farmers -- farm animals can feed and graze right under the solar panels.”
The Fairmont Solar Farm and The Maxton Solar Farm will together produce more than 12,500 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, sufficient to meet the needs of more than 1,200 homes. GreenCo Solutions, owned by 22 of North Carolina’s Electric Membership Cooperatives, will purchase the Renewable Energy Certificates generated by both O2 energies’ solar farms in Roberson county and Progress Energy will distribute the electricity through its grid.