Strata Solar embarks on new project near Charlotte – Triangle Business Journal
Premium content from Triangle Business Journal by John Downey
Date: Friday, February 10, 2012, 6:00am EST
Chapel Hill – Strata Solar will start construction of a second 5-megawatt solar farm in Kings Mountain next month.
The $22.5 million Waco Farm project near Charlotte is one of four large solar installations Strata plans to build by November. On two of the projects – Waco and the Mocksville Farm project in Davie County – Strata plans to sell the power to Duke Energy Carolinas, according to filings with the N.C. Utilities Commission.
The other two projects, also 5 megawatts, will be built in Wake and Scotland counties. Electricity from those projects will be sold to Progress Energy Carolinas, Strata says.
Owen Smith, Duke’s managing director of renewable strategy and compliance, could not comment directly on the two new projects Strata lists with Duke. No final contracts have been signed.
Utilities are required to purchase power produced by small power producers in their area. But they are not required to buy the renewable-energy credits, which utilities use to meet North Carolina’s requirements that part of the power they sell come from renewable sources.
Strata spokesman Blair Schoof says negotiations haven’t been completed for the sale of the energy credits from the projects now being built.
But Smith says Duke is pleased with the arrangements made for a 20-year contract to buy the power and credits produced by Strata’s first farm in the region, Kings Mountain Solar.
“That project is now operational, and we are very interested in continuing conversations with Strata,” he says. “We would like to do additional projects with them, if we can work it out.”
He notes Duke also is talking to additional solar developers and other renewable-energy companies.
Scott Sutton, a spokesman with Progress, says his company has no contract with Strata for the two projects in its service area. But he says Progress looks forward to talking to Strata about the possibility of buying power from the projects.
Solar power and energy-credit prices have come down significantly during the last year to 18 months. That makes them generally attractive to the state’s major utilities.
Solar-energy developers also have become more adept at cutting construction costs. In this environment, Strata has become one of the leading utility-scale developers in the state.