North Carolina will be home to the biggest solar PV farm in the eastern states when local solar developer Strata gets approval for a 100 megawatt (MW) plant.
Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar wants to start construction on the $250 million project late this year and complete it in 10 months. Located in Duplin County, it will cover 400 acres.
The four-year-old firm has been quickly ramping up projects, mostly smaller ones, but with the prospect of incentives being phased out, it's getting into big projects.
Strata wants to do big projects to "further cut the cost of power as it looks to a potential future without the investment tax credit," says Blair Schooff, Vice President of Marketing and Sales. "We need to prepare ourselves. One of the ways to do that is to do one 100-MW project instead of 12 6.4-MW jobs. Each job, in isolation, has a lot of soft costs."
This year, 13 solar projects come online across North Carolina, built in partnership with Canadian Solar. Each is about 6.4 MW, for a total exceeding 80 MW. The first project will start producing power within weeks.
Here's what 6.4 MW solar PV farm looks like:
Last year, Strata built 70 MW of solar projects there, including a 20 MW plant in Mount Olive. It's also building a 1.1 MW solar PV array on Ikea's rooftop in Charlotte.
For 2013, it's planning another 140 MW across 25 solar projects. Two of those will be 20 MW plants in an unannounced adjoining state, and the company is also expanding to California. Strata has an equity stake in California installer Paramount Solar and Strata's CEO Markus Wilhelm serves as chairman of the board.
Unfortunately, North Carolina is one of a handful of states that's considering rolling back its Renewable Portfolio Standard, under ALEC's model legislation
, the Electricity Freedom Act.
"We think the policy in place and enacted in North Carolina has been an excellent policy for catalyzing the industry," says Schooff. "We are actively growing jobs, and we are planning towards what has been on the horizon. We are hoping it stays that way."