A new solar power research center coming to a location formerly occupied by an airport will provide a workforce for future energy jobs.
This is the vision announced today at the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau, when Geenex LLC Chief Executive Officer Georg Veit outlined a plan for the building of a solar plant at the old airport property outside Roanoke Rapids.
The first part of the plan is to build a six megawatt solar generation plant, to be completed before the end of the year. By the start of 2014, Veit said, the plan is to build a second system, about double the size of the first, along with the Solar Center of Excellence, a research facility dedicated to providing research and education about solar power.
Veit, whose company is based in Charlotte, said such a facility could provide a foundation for a bright future for solar power in Halifax County.
“We want to make Halifax County the center for solar in this state,” Veit said. “And with the Solar Center of Excellence, we want to inform the public — what is solar? We want to educate the workforce. In Germany, everybody wants solar, and we wanted it because we learned the benefits of solar. We have a vision if we tell people about solar, they will want it as well.”
Providing education, Veit said, about solar, will help the public become an educated workforce and be able to work in the energy industries of the future.
“There is a limited educated workforce for this market,” said Mike Whitson, of PCG Solar, a partner in the Geenex project at the airport.
In addition to the educational facility, Geenex, which signed a lease for the airport property today, will invest $72 million in the project and create 12 jobs, paying well above the average hourly wage.
The company will make its money by selling power to utility companies, but the crown jewel of the project, Veit said, is the solar center.
Halifax County Board of Commissioners Chairman James Pierce said the expectation of the board is to see the vision behind the solar center realized, so the workforce needs of the future can be filled by local residents.
“We’re going to educate and train people in our community to fill that need long-term,” Pierce said.
The facility will also be partnering with Halifax Community College as it attempts to train a workforce to help fill early needs. College Board of Trustees Chairman Frank Avent said the addition of Geenex to the community and their 30-year commitment to a lease at the old airport show there’s a bright future ahead for Halifax County. Avent thanked the business leaders and elected officials in the community for helping make it happen.
“This is a great day in Halifax County,” Avent said. “The whole objective of everything we do is to make Halifax County a better place to live and raise a family, and thanks to the people in this room, we’re making it happen.”