The $500 million, 550-acre, 850,000 solar panel project announced by Duke Energy on Monday will be the biggest solar project in North Carolina – and east of the Mississippi River – but it means more for economic development than for Strata Solar, or the market itself.
John Morrison, vice president of marketing and sales for Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar says it doesn’t change the scale of projects the company will proceed with.
“It’s certainly much, much bigger than what we’ve done historically,” he says. “But we’ll continue in the same vein we’ve been in. We’ll continue to build the sort of solar we’ve been doing here in North Carolina.”
While that means bringing a new solar farm online every 10 days, they tend to be in the range of 5-8 megawatts, powering around 600 homes. The Duke Energy farm will consist of 80 megawatts, enough to power 10,000 homes over the course of a year.
Morrison says it’s mostly about the economic development, creating 300-500 jobs in areas of the state that are rural and where jobs are hard to come by. And while careers are being built, the project won’t elevate North Carolina’s ranking among the top solar states in the nation.
“There are lots of states and regions that recognize the economic development benefit that comes from solar,” says Morrison. “There are other states and regions watching the state, like Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Virginia. I’m sure they’d like to see similar investments. This growth in the state has been in the past three years. Strata Solar is approaching $2 billion in solar investments in North Carolina. I mean, four years ago, nobody would have dreamed that would be possible. But this project won’t change our ranking among other states. It will help us hold our own as solar continues to become cheaper.”