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Sunny future at airport

The roof of Warren Field Airport was ripped from the walls and turned upside down during Sunday’s powerful thunderstorm that killed three people in Beaufort and Pitt counties. (WDN File Photo/Sara Cowell)

 

By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
A solar farm project at Warren Field Airport could bring about 40 jobs to the area, according to city officials.
During the Washington City Council meeting Monday, the council adopted a resolution of intent to lease 75 acres of airport property to SunEnergy1 for $22,689 a year for 15 years, with the possibility of three extensions of five years each. The council has final approval over any such lease and related easements, which have yet to be finalized by the city and SunEnergy1, which is based in Mooresville.
The owner of the solar farm would be Duke Energy. SunEnergy1 submitted the lease bid on behalf of Duke Energy, City Manager Josh Kay said Wednesday.
The city had advertised for bids to lease the property.
“The bid we received is from SunEnergy1 LLC,” said Kay during the council’s discussion of the resolution.
“Should this economic-development project become a reality, it would be upward of a $50-million investment at the airport and could create up to 35 to 40 new jobs in the future. So, I’m excited about it,” Kay said.
“I want to pause here and commend the manager, staff, clerk, attorney, electric and public works, in particular. I’m sure others were involved, but those parties have all been instrumental … for taking this opportunity. The feedback we got, particularly on electric and public works, from the party that we’re engaged with was just that we have a top-shelf organization with a great deal of expertise. Our ability to respond to this opportunity in the timeline we did just speaks volumes about our staff capabilities. I just want to say that for the record,” Mayor Archie Jennings said after the resolution was approved.
Jennings said he believes the city’s partnership with SunEnergy1 could “be the turning point for the airport,” which is not a moneymaker for the city.
A SunEnergy1 spokesman, during a brief telephone interview Wednesday, said the company builds such projects but does not own them. The company’s website indicates it provides solar, LED lighting and cool-roofing services. The website also notes the company completed a 2.4 megawatt solar-farm installation in Plymouth in late 2011 as part of an overall 20 megawatt system. The first phase of the system produces enough energy to power at least 300 homes, according to the website. At overall project completion, the system should provide enough energy to power 1,200 homes and offset 9,869 metric tons of carbon emissions a year.
SunEnergy1 will own the Plymouth system and interconnect it through Dominion Power, and sell energy to PJM, a regional organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in parts of the Eastern Seaboard, according to the company’s website.
According to information made public Monday, council members received copies of a 59-page ground lease and 12-page lease option last week. Councilman Doug Mercer said there were some words in those documents that sent him “scurrying” to a dictionary to look up their meanings.
When project details are provided to the Daily News, they will be published as timely as possible. For more information about SunEnergy1, visit www.sunenergy1.com.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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