O2 Energies building larger solar projects


O2 Energies President Joel Olsen says his company will start construction in April on its largest project to date, a 6.3-megawatt, $15 million solar farm in Montgomery County near Biscoe.

It is the first of six projects in the Cornelius-based solar company’s pipeline for 2013. But it may not remain Olsen’s largest project for long. His company already has plans for a farm totaling more than 25 megawatts, also in Montgomery County.

The 6.3-megawatt farm will be rated at 5 megawatts of capacity for power on the grid. Solar panels produce direct current, which must be converted into alternating current for transmission on utility lines. Some power is lost in the conversion.

In Biscoe on Tuesday, Olsen told Montgomery officials he expects the smaller project to be operating by October. Power will be sold to Progress Energy Carolinas under a long-term power-purchase agreement.


Big pipeline


The larger project would be rated at 20 megawatts of alternating current. Olsen says negotiations continue for a power-purchase agreement for that project.

“We will start the 20-megawatt project in the second half of the year, and we hope to finish it in 2013 also,” he says.

Olsen says the six projects in the pipeline for 2013 — including the two Montgomery County farms — would total about 50 megawatts (rated for alternating current) of solar construction this year. That is more than twice the roughly 22 megawatts worth of solar projects the company has developed in seven projects since it started in 2009.

Olsen told Biscoe officials the project will create as many as 150 jobs during construction. Most of those jobs would go to local contractors and workers, he said.

A 20-megawatt farm would likely cost in $60 million or so to build at current prices.

It would be one of the largest solar projects in the state, he told his Biscoe audience.

Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar has announced plans for a 100-megawatt farm — 78 megawatts in alternating current — in Duplin County this year.


Written by John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal