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POWERING UP: New solar farm can power 750 homes
Newton land owner Kenny Sigmon discusses how he leased 45 acres of land to Strata Solar LLC for use as a solar farm off of Sigmon Dairy Road.
NEWTON — More than 750 Newton homes have a new source of power after Strata Solar cut the ribbon on its new farm in the city.
The new farm doesn’t house chickens or grow corn, though. Instead, it soaks up sunlight to produce electricity. Strata’s newest solar farm marks its third in Catawba County. One is located on Zion Church Road in Hickory and the other is built on Highway 16 in Claremont.
Construction on the Sigmon Catawba Farm began in December 2013. It is a 6.4 megawatt farm that produces about 9,600 MWh of electricity each year — Duke Energy’s Marshall Steam Station in Catawba County is a 2,090 megawatt station, which powers about 2 million homes.
Unlike Duke’s coal-fired plant, though, the solar farm touts emission-free electricity. The company’s website says the new plant will displace 5,155 tons of carbon dioxide each year, about the same as reducing vehicle travel by 8 million miles. The farm was built to provide clean energy for 30 years.
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) stood in the shade of the solar panels Friday during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He said the surge of solar energy in Catawba County is beneficial both for the environment and for the economy.
“It’s great,” McHenry said. “We need to diversify our energy production and this is a fantastic example.”
The Sigmon Catawba Farm is built on Kenny Sigmon’s farm. Strata leased the land from Sigmon. He said the land has been in his family for four generations, and this new farm would be passed on to another generation. And, he added, the 45-acre plot has another, practical use.
“We decided we’d make more money with solar than in farming,” Sigmon said, thinking of his grandkids.
Some of the parts in the $20 million investment are made and constructed in North Carolina. The racks holding the solar panels came from Shelby. But, John Morrison, chief operating officer of Strata, said the entire solar farm can be removed once its life is up. The solar panels degenerate, he said, but by the end of their 30-year life they will be running at 70 percent efficiency.
Morrison also said North Carolina is the third largest producers of solar energy in the country. That’s a number McHenry likes to see.
“We like the investment, and we like the results,” McHenry said.