Local News

City Council considers solar farm for Raleigh

Posted July 26, 2009 11:25 p.m. EDT
Updated July 27, 2009 10:43 a.m. EDT

— Land in southeast Raleigh could soon be home to a 1.3-megawatt solar power plant that would provide enough electricity for some 1,000 homes.

The project would be similar to a solar farm near the SAS campus on Trenton Road in Cary.

“It feeds energy directly onto Progress Energy power lines, and it is used by neighbors and the SAS facility,” said Bob Kingery, co-founder and director of operations for Southern Energy Management.

The 1-megawatt system at SAS tracks the sun through the day, generating enough clean, green electricity to power about 200 homes.

SAS worked with Morrisville-based Southern Energy Management to build the farm last year. It is one of the largest solar energy projects in North Carolina with more than 5,000 solar panels generating months of megawatt hours.

Earlier this month, the Raleigh City Council agreed to lease 10 acres of land for a similar solar plant at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Southern Energy Management is teaming with Progress Energy to build that plant, which could be operation by early 2010. It is a move that could pay off for the city.

"They'll have the opportunity to buy the system, and then be the long-term owner and beneficiary of the power that it generates and the income stream that it generates,” Kingery said.

Progress Energy will own and operate the plant, which is the fifth one it has announced under North Carolina law that mandates use of renewable energy resources.

State law requires Progress and other utilities to begin producing power from renewable sources. Progress Energy is exploring solar, wind, biowaste and other options to produce power from renewable sources. By 2012, companies have to get 3.5 percent of all retail sales from so-called renewables. The requirement jumps to 12.5 percent by 2021.

"As the price of energy rises, as the price of electricity rises, I think we will see solar becoming more and more main stream,” Kingery said.

The project is expected to create some 15 jobs. The City Council will take a final vote on the agreement later this year.