News Column

Strata Solar to Produce Alternative Energy

July 24, 2013

There's a new form of energy in town.

Lenoir County had its official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday for two farms that are expected to provide a great source of revenue and energy.

Strata Solar Farms showed off its two farms as Lenoir County Commissioner Eric Rouse cut the ceremonial ribbon at Lenoir 1 on Wheat Swamp Road, the land Rouse's family owned before leasing it to Strata.

The second farm can be found on Odham Road.

"This farm is an investment that stands on its own," Rouse said. "There isn't a need for water, sewage or electricity, and it provides a good boom for our economy. We appreciate Strata for investing in our community and it's a true win for Lenoir County."

The two farms will combine to power more than 1,500 homes in Lenoir County, with solar panels warranted for 25 years. Gerry Dudzik, COO of Carolina Solar Energy, said the panels -- more than 24,000 at each location -- should last much longer than that, though. There will also be maintenance in case one breaks beforehand.

"We have a 24/7 interface system, so if any problems develop, we'll see it from Chapel Hill and have a technician repair it," Dudzik said.

Emissions, noise or traffic won't be associated with the farms' operation. According to stratasolar.com, about 1.84 million pounds of carbon dioxide will be offset each year; the equivalent of 7.2 million miles of automobiles on the road.

The website also said the farms will be economical gains to Lenoir County, providing more than $250,000 in direct expenditures for wages, lodging and supplies. Stratasolar.com also stated there will be an increase in the property tax base of about $12 million without a requirement for other services from the county.

"This is really a good calling card to Lenoir County," Carolina Solar Energy Project Manager Jordan Nance said. "It's very progressive, environmentally friendly and it brings jobs to the community."

Currently, Strata -- based out of Chapel Hill -- has 27 farms in North Carolina, but plans on expanding in both numbers and location.

"Right now, all of our farms are in North Carolina, but the company is looking at neighboring states because they have market as well," Strata intern Doug Stiegler said.

Blair Schooff, vice president of marketing and sales at Strata, said Kinston was a great area to set up a solar farm.

"We've been looking everywhere in N.C.," Schooff said. "Eastern North Carolina has very amenable land and there is infrastructure and a substation near. Kinston is a fantastic host for this farm as the land fits our criteria."

Lenoir County is headed to a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly future, something that more than satisfies County Commissioner Chairman Reuben Davis.

"I think it's great and I don't see any hardships that it could cause to the residents," Davis said. "Anything that is clean industry is welcome. You don't want anything with a noxious effect and it won't be noisy. The aesthetics would be fine, so I don't see a downside.

"It's a good investment and it looks like they're sweeping the country right now."



Source: (c)2013 The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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