Just off of Old U.S. 421 lies 70 acres that will soon be used to produce a farm of a different sort for Yadkinville residents. On Friday, representatives from the company O2 EMC announced they will create sustainable energy in Yadkin County through the use of a solar farm.
Yadkinville Solar, LLC will be the most recent edition to the O2 EMC projects, totalling 17 with three of those still under development. The 3.5 MegaWatt AC (4.5 MW DC) solar farm is being developed at 2323 Old U.S. Hwy. 421, a 70-acre site once used as an airstrip for small engine planes. According to O2 EMC, Yadkinville Solar is representing a $12 million investment in Yadkin County.
“Yadkinville Solar Farm will produce enough energy to provide power for approximately 500 homes or 700 kilowatts per year,” said O2 EMC CEO Joel Olsen.
According to Olsen, the original property owners had purchased the land with the intent of selling grapes grown in a vineyard. When the land became available, the property was ideal for solar farming due to the relatively flat, south facing field that needs little clearing. “It’s shade free from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 31,” said Olsen, which is a significant consideration for an energy source that thrives on sunlight.
For neighbors in the surrounding community, O2 EMC claims that there will be little chance for disturbance from the farm. “Compared to planes flying in, you won’t hear a thing,” said Olsen. “There’s no waste to get rid of, no running parts.”
Along with the roughly 20,000 solar modules that will sit on the former airstrip, the solar farm also will have an agricultural component. Drawing comparisons to the Ararat Rock Solar Farm in Surry County, the Yadkin Solar Farm has similar topography allowing for the grazing of sheep within the confines of the farm.
“Right now we have 97 sheep, we’d like to have 150,” said Olsen. “Grass grows quickly here so we need about twice as many sheep as in the eastern part of the state.”
Grazing sheep on the land will serve as a two-fold endeavor for the company and the local farmer that will care for them. The grass on the land will be kept short and the farmer will be able to sell the sheep to local markets such as Whole Foods whose strict restrictions on purchasing meat makes the Yadkin Solar Farm a viable option.
Yadkin Solar’s plan is to create work during the construction phase for more than 60 local citizens in the Yadkin area. Through prioritizing the use of local suppliers and sub-contractors in all of their projects they develop, they plan to secure employment for more than 100 people, 80 percent of which would reside within 30 miles of the job site.
“Our goal is to involve the long-term workers as early as possible,” said Adam Foodman, COO for O2 EMC. By involving farmers and those with expertise in their field, the project can be even more sustainable without constant maintenance. “We want to get the take on the farmer’s opinion when it comes to fencing and construction.”
According to the website, more than 10 local contractor firms, including grading, equipment rental, electrical contractors, surveyors and security contractors will be directly involved in the project by providing services and materials. Over a half-year period, the project will use local hardware stores, restaurants, hotels and other local businesses. Once the project is complete, the project will continue to use a local security contractor, a local first responder for electrical issues, and a local farmer for grounds maintenance.
Ground breaking on the project will begin soon, followed by a three- to four-month construction process. “We’re hoping to generate power by the end of the year,” said Olsen.
For those skeptic of using solar energy, Olsen assures that, even in winter, when days are shorter and the weather is cold, as long as the skies are clear the production is “amazing.”
“Clouds can reduce production,” Olsen said, noting the one contingency with the weather for energy production.
Though the solar modules will only sit at about the height of really tall corn, the savings could be reflected to residents. According to Olsen, the cost of running solar energy is about 6 1/2 cents per kw/hour for 15 years compared to 10 cents across all sectors in North Carolina. “We’re helping to stabilize energy prices,” said Olsen.
For more information, visit o2energies.com.
Karen Holbrook may be reached at 336-258-4059 or on Twitter @KarenHolbrook00.