More investments in renewable energy coming to North Carolina
By Bob Townsend
BLADENBORO, NC (WECT) – Some farmers across North Carolina are giving up traditional farming for a hot idea — collecting energy from the sun is what is about to take place at a solar farm under construction in Bladen County.
For the most part, the county remains mainly agricultural. On an afternoon drive, you'll find fields of regular row crops, corn, soybeans and cotton.
But with the demise of the amount of tobacco grown these days, farmers have been diversifying, and on a piece of land near Bladenboro, another type of farm is rising from the ground.
Instead of planting agricultural crops this year, the landowner has a contract with a company to build a solar farm. It's something that not many people ever imagined seeing in rural eastern North Carolina.
“Never would I have imagined it, you know…it was something more or less like you would see on a space station, that is the solar that we know have going up” said Willie Locklear, with Strata Solar, the company building many of the local solar farms.
Solar farms can be found from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the sandy coastal plains, and many are now in operation in the area.
The average solar farm consists of between 35 and 50 acres, and in many cases, they are being built on land that did not generate adequate income for farmers.
“We never ideally like to use perfect farmland for the solar farms,” said Hardin Mitchell of Strata Solar. “We like to be on that land where we are not taking good land, but we are not building it in a swamp either,” said Mitchell.
North Carolina ranks high in the number of solar farms because of generous tax incentives. Six years ago, the state began requiring investor-owned utilities to provide up to 12.5 percent of the power from renewable sources.
But to be eligible to have land converted into a solar farm, it has to be in close proximity to a utilities sub-station.
For farmers converting land to a solar farm, there are no weather worries, no threats from insects and growing conditions — just a steady income.
“You know, the sun is not going anywhere and if we got enough of these built, in the future, I am almost one hundred percent sure that our cost of living, from an electrical standpoint, will go down, because, you know, instead of pushing power, we have it right here” said Locklear.
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