FAIRMONT — A large solar farm will soon be located in Fairmont.
Cornelius-based O2 Energies announced this week that it is building a 4.5-megawatt solar farm on a 28-acre site on Old Stage Road, near Fairmont High School. Construction is to begin in early May and be completed by early October, Olee Joel Olsen Jr., the company’s managing director said.
“There will be a lot of benefits to Fairmont,” Olsen said. “This is a town that is embracing clean energy.”
The announcement of the company’s plans to construct the farm — as well as plans for a similar project just outside of Maxton — was made Wednesday morning at the site. The farm is being built on property owned by Al Lewis.
According to Olsen, the farm will utilize 18,000 solar panels — modules — to generate enough energy to supply power to about 700 homes. Solar module manufacturer REC, which manufactures solar-grade silicon in the U.S., will supply the modules that will generate the power that will be sold to Progress Energy. The life of the modules are guaranteed for at least 25 years, Olsen said.
Olsen said construction of the farm will involve about 50 to 100 workers.
“Our goal is to maximize the number people involved locally,” he said.
Olsen said that his company, which is not only developing the farm but will operate it, is investing $15 million in the Fairmont project and a similar amount in the Maxton project.
“The investment at this site alone will increase the property tax base $2 million to $3 million,” he said.
Olsen said the Fairmont site is good for locating a solar farm for three major reasons: abundant sunshine; enough electrical users nearby; and the ground is “relatively flat,” needing little grading.
In addition to providing enough electricity to power about 700 homes, when complete the solar farm will offset the need to use traditional energy sources like coal and gas, which create harmful emissions. The farm will also be used as a training tool for local workers during the construction period and beyond.
O2 Energies is currently working on several other solar projects across the state. The company recently completed the Mayberry Solar Farm in Mount Airy and the Avery Solar Farm near Grandfather Mountain.
“We are excited to work with the town of Fairmont, one of the towns passed through by travelers between I-95 and Myrtle Beach,” Olsen said. “Everyone from the mayor to Robeson Community College, Lumber River Workforce Development Board, and even Fairmont High School are interested in what we can accomplish with the Fairmont solar farm.”
Fairmont Mayor Charles Kemp said that the addition of a solar farm in Fairmont will boost the town’s ability to recruit businesses.
“We believe the Fairmont solar farm will help attract companies to the town of Fairmont who are not only interested in our solid infrastructure and educated workforce, but can also utilize the clean solar energy that will be generated and distributed into the Fairmont electrical grid to help run their operations,” he said.
Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s industrial developer, said both the Fairmont and Maxton solar farms will be valuable additions to the county.
“These projects will definitely add to the tax base and create jobs,” he said. “They offer us a great opportunity to retrain our workers in Robeson County.”
County Commissioners Tom Taylor and Roger Oxendine, who were both present at Wednesday’s announcement, also said the development of solar farms will be a long-range economic asset for Robeson County.
“This is outstanding,” Taylor said. “These farms don’t interfere with anyone. They just sit there and make money. This is a win-win situation for everyone.”
“Any time you can bring 100 jobs to the town and county, it’s good,” Oxendine said. “This will also be a good way of possibly getting cheaper energy costs for our residents.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.