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Solar farm to harness Yanceyville’s sunlight

Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 6:23 pm


Solar farm to harness Yanceyville’s sunlight



It’s quite a juxtaposition as drivers roll down Highway 62 in Blanch, passing beautiful homesteads, vast farmlands… and then a sea of solar panels rising from the ground, reaching for the sun.

Strata Solar, out of Chapel Hill, is “building” these solar farms across North Carolina. Last year, one popped up on the west side of U.S. 29, close to the Caswell-Rockingham county border.

Blair Schooff, vice president of sales and marketing for Strata Solar, said the Highway 62 site is “typical for our size”, covering 35 to 40 acres. It’s enough to provide 750 homes with energy for a year, he added. The site will probably be commissioned in February.

“The panels use light as a catalyst to excite electrons and send them across a gap, where we harness the electrons,” said Schooff.

The panels harness direct current – or DC power  – then converts it to alternating current – or AC power.

Schooff said the energy is “pushed over the fence” to the local utility grid, which in Caswell County’s case is Progress Energy.

It is up to the power company how to best use the resource.

“They might use it locally or distantly; they pay us for the power,” said Schooff. “We will have a direct relationship with Progress, and they will buy energy from us.”

Strata Solar either buys the land or signs a long-term lease, usually 20 years.

“We have our own brokers and in-house developers who pore over Google maps looking for amenable land,” said Schooff.

“But in the last year, land owners in the agriculture industry have been struggling to make ends meet, so we’ve gotten many phone calls from them offering their land,” he said. “The tide has turned inward.”

The solar farms have no moving parts, no noise, and no traffic is generated. Sometimes screening is installed around it.

“But a lot of people who see them consider them quite bucolic and they fit in with the landscape,” said Schooff.

Strata Solar takes pride in not altering the landscape, and look for land that lends itself to the panels.

“We don’t grade any land. We don’t use concrete or cement… we pile drive steel poles into the ground, and attach aluminum racks to hold the panels. The wires are buried in conduit in the dirt,” said Schooff.

“At the end of the solar farm’s life cycle, a farmer or his heir may want to return the land to farming. All they have to do is pull up the pilings.”

While the solar farms operate on their own with minimal oversight, Schooff said they are constantly monitored and have security systems. Keeping an eye on everything enables the company to spot any problems, like panels damaged by lightning. The company also does maintenance, such as trimming grass in the warmer months.





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