Feature: Solar farm update

The first phases of Western North Carolina’s first solar farm are harvesting the sun’s energy and producing electricity, just two years after Progress Energy and First Light Solar signed the agreement to create it on a seven-acre Haywood County site once used as Evergreen Packaging’s landfill. Under the agreement, Evergreen leases the land to FLS for 20 years, FLS owns and operates the 3,288 SunPower photovoltaic-panel system, and Progress agrees to purchase the produced electricity — almost 1 megawatt, enough to power about 51 homes for one year.

Last year, WNC Green Building Council Director Matt Siegel and FLS President Michael Shore noted that the project owed its creation, in part, to a North Carolina bill that requires public utilities to increase the percentage of renewable-energy electricity they produce — from the current 1 percent to 12.5 percent by the year 2021.

Says Shore: “The time is right for solar. FLS started with three employees in 2006, and we just hired our 50th employee. Even in a down economy, the solar age has arrived.”

The $5 million solar farm has generated about 45 jobs, uses steel made in WNC and runs on panels made in the Southeast, Shore reported in late 2009. By the end of 2010, the last of five construction phases will be complete.

[Margaret Williams is an editor for Mountain Xpress. She can be reached at mvwilliams@mountainx.com or (828) 251-1333, ext 152.]