White Post solar project a group effort

Published 10:53 am Thursday, November 15, 2012

Duke Energy is building a 12.5 megawatt commercial-scale power project in Beaufort County. Read more about the project in Friday's Washington Daily News. (WDN File Photo/Mona Moore)

When Greg Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables, talks about his company’s presence in Beaufort County, he talks about decades, not years.
Duke Energy Renewables, a commercial business unit of Duke Energy, started developing a 12.5-megawatt commercial-scale solar power project on White Post Road about six weeks ago. Once complete, it will be the largest project of its kind in North Carolina.
“We have ambitions to do more,” Wolf said.
Duke Energy has plans to build a second solar farm on land by Warren Field Airport that it will lease from the city. The site will produce 20 MW of solar power. There was also talk of possibly expanding the White Post site to 25 MW.
The current solar project has the ability to produce enough electricity to power about 3,000 homes. Construction should be completed by the end of the year.
As officials learned at a luncheon and tour of the facility Thursday, Duke Energy is one of many companies involved in the project. A Mooresville contractor, SunEnergy 1, is heading the installation of solar panels from Bosch onto solar mounts from Daetwyler.
Duke Energy Renewables intends to sell the power through a 15-year agreement with the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency, current supplier of wholesale power to Washington.
In Thursday’s presentation, Wolf and other project stakeholders stressed the project is about people and jobs. The video presentation included face after face of local construction workers who were out of work for years before being hired by Sun Energy.
“A dollar here touches hands seven times, and that amounts to more than $20 million spent in Beaufort County,” said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.
She said Bath businesses that relied on tourism and often closed for the winter were able to stay open this year because of the White Post project. Companies like Caterpillar will sell millions in equipment before the project is completed.
Shawn LeMond with Sustainable Energy Community Development Company facilitated the deal. He said his goal was to bring as many jobs east of Interstate 95 as he could.
“When you take a $40 million project and put it in Charlotte, everybody would say, ‘That’s really cool.’ Put it here, and it really makes an economic impact,” LeMond said.
Duke Energy Renewables contracted with SunEnergy1, a solar design, engineering and construction company, to build the 50,000-panel photovoltaic project. SunEnergy1 designed the solar array and will handle operations, monitoring and maintenance of the system after it is commissioned.
In addition to the 12.5-MW Beaufort County Solar Power Project and the 5-MW Murfreesboro Solar Power Project in eastern North Carolina, Duke Energy Renewables owns six 1-MW solar facilities in the western part of the state.
The solar power project in Beaufort County is Duke Energy Renewables’ 12th wholly owned commercial solar farm. Since 2007, Duke Energy has invested more than $2.5 billion to grow its commercial wind and solar business.