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New solar panel project in Halifax County could show future of renewable energy for the state

A new solar panel field in Halifax County is powering more than 1,000 homes in northern North Carolina.

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Keenan Willard
, WRAL eastern NC reporter

A new solar panel field in Halifax County is powering more than 1,000 homes in northern North Carolina.

Developers say the Grissom solar site is a glimpse of the future of renewable energy in the state.

“People are using power 24/7, and so we’ve got to be able to adapt to that environment,” Pine Gate Renewables CEO Ben Catt said.

Just outside the town of Enfield in Halifax County, the forest gives way to the next generation of solar power.

It’s the Grissom solar site, with more than 17,000 solar panels built by energy company Pine Gate Renewables that came online in June.

The site now sends energy across Halifax, Warren, Nash, and Martin counties, as well as part of southern Virginia.

“I believe it’ll be a little over 1,000 homes that will be serviced by this farm,” Catt said. “Really there’s a need for it from a clean energy perspective, but also it is the lowest cost energy that we’re putting on the grid.”

The company’s CEO told WRAL News that when the sun is out, the solar array can send seven megawatts of direct current into the area’s power grid.

But when WRAL News visited the site, the weather wasn’t cooperating.

Catt said that was where the site took the next step for solar energy.

“The reason that you build a solar plus storage facility is a solar farm only produces energy when the sun is shining,” Catt said. “But as solar continues to be a bigger and bigger part of the energy mix, we need to be able to dispatch energy even when the sun’s not shining.”

Along with the solar panels, the site also has a 10 megawatt battery that can save up power and then dole it out even under cloudy skies.

Catt said the system was one of the first of its kind in the state.

“This is exciting for North Carolina because there are not a lot of solar plus storage facilities here,” Catt said. “In North Carolina in general, and frankly in the country in general.”

Developers said solar power might not be a major source of energy yet, but within 15 years, it could be the largest power source in the country.

With more than 60 renewable energy projects in development across the state, Pine Gate is looking to make North Carolina’s grid ready for the future of power projects.

“There’s a lot more potential, there’s more in front of us than there is behind us when it comes to solar and wind and all other renewable energy resources coming on the grid in North Carolina,” Catt said.

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