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Category : A Brighter Future

New Solar Farms Springing up in NC

Check out this story of a new solar farm being built in Mount Airy, NC.  The construction is likely to produce over 50 jobs.  These are the type of small-scale projects which can make a tremendous difference in the big picture.

O2 Energies Announces 4.5 MW Ararat Rock Mt. Airy Solar Farm

By Amneris Solano

Andy Griffith never imagined that his hometown of Mt. Airy NC would generate more solar electricity per person than almost any other city in the U.S. Mount Airy, the inspiration of the fictional town of Mayberry in the Andy Griffith show, has just over 10,000 residents located in the North West part of North Carolina. Last year the 1.2 Megawatt Mayberry Solar farm was completed just 3 miles from the historic main street.  This year, another 4.5 Megawatts of solar energy generation will be installed as part of the Ararat Rock Solar farm near Mount Airy.

O2 Energies is the developer, owner and operator of the Ararat Rock Solar farm which is being constructed on a 25 acre plot about a mile south of their Mayberry Solar Farm.

“We have developed a close relationship with the city of Mount Airy and contractors in Surry County. It was a natural step to site another project here, allowing us to use the local workforce that has already worked on other solar projects in our portfolio.” says O2 Energies Managing Director Joel Olsen.

O2 Energies chose National Renewable Energy Corporation (NARENCO), a Charlotte based engineering, procurement and construction contractor to construct the system. “NARENCO is honored to have been selected to work with O2 Energies on the Ararat Rock Solar farm. We have designed the project to take advantage of the natural contours of the site, creating a stunning project for O2 Energies, Mt. Airy and Surry County”, said Dennis Richter, senior vice president for NARENCO.

The electricity generated by the array will be sold to Duke Energy to power hundreds of local homes and businesses. The new array will be located next to the Ararat Rock Products quarry which has been in operation more than 60 years. Due to proximity, much of the power produced by the array will be consumed by the rock quarry during operating hours. Once the solar farm is placed on line, local sheep will maintain the grass inside the fenced area, while family farmers will work the land around the perimeter of the solar farm.

O2 Energies is focused on maximizing the use of US produced components, and local labor for its solar farms. The Ararat Rock Solar farm will use more than 18,000 REC solar modules which are manufactured with US produced silicon. In addition, O2 Energies selected Advanced Energy (AE) inverters manufactured in Colorado. This is the second solar project for which Surrey Bank & Trust, a local institution, will provide debt financing and insurance, making it one of the first local banks to have participated in a larger solar farm in their own community. O2 Energies is working with Surry Community College to provide workforce training for contractors and local labor who will be involved with the Ararat Rock Solar farm.

Ararat Rock Solar will begin construction in May and should be completed by the end of the year.

Jobs For the Future

As Christians, we are concerned about climate change and the many negative consequences it brings.  As Christians we are also concerned about poverty and seek to create a world where everyone can have a decent paying job.  Here at the Good Steward Campaign, we believe these concerns are not mutually exclusive.  A series in our blog is called “A Brighter Future,” which will highlight success stories in the “green” economy.  While a prominent argument against acting against climate change is that it will destroy our economy, we believe the opposite.  The wave of the future is an economy centered on renewable energy – a movement that will bring our country energy independence and keep good, well-paying jobs right here in America.

To kick off the series, we’re highlighting an Earth Day story from The Roanoke Times exposing how renewable energy is creating jobs.


Earth Day is also about jobs

By Vickie L. Hurley

It's Earth Day and therefore an appropriate time to think about how we can take better care of our environment. But it's also a day to consider how wind energy — free, homegrown electricity — can help create and secure the manufacturing jobs we so desperately need here in Virginia and across the country.

Wind power, along with other forms of renewable energy, can significantly reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas that causes global warming. But wind power also has the potential to be one of the world's next boom industries — stimulating our economy and rebuilding our manufacturing base.

Why? Because the cost of wind energy is increasingly competitive with other forms of power, and wind energy can generate taxes for local governments and lease payments for local farmers.

But most importantly, wind energy employs workers right here in Salem. Harnessing wind can create and secure high-quality construction and manufacturing jobs, like those in the General Electric plant in Salem where I work.

At our facility, we make control systems for a variety of GEEnergy products, including controls designed for wind turbines. In January, GE announced an additional 60 positions — adding to approximately 700 working men and women already on our payroll.

The company attributed that job growth in part to increased demand for wind turbine controls. And these are good union jobs, with decent wages and benefits.

In recent years, other manufacturers who make one or more of the 8,000 component parts in a commercial grade turbine have emerged in the United States and in Virginia.

Today, the wind industry's trade group says 60 percent of the content of turbines running in the U.S. is manufactured here at home.

But the forecast for domestic wind energy is not all good. In fact, the chance for Virginia and the U.S. to be the world's top turbine maker may be lost if Congress fails to extend a critical tax credit the industry needs to compete with China and other countries — and to continue creating and securing jobs.

The "production tax credit" for wind power — and for other types of clean energy like solar — rewards companies for the electricity they generate. The tax credit gives the companies an incentive to locate here in the U.S. But the credit is set to expire in December unless Congress passes a proposed four-year extension.

Wind power will support 78,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2012, according to a recent study by the wind industry. But the same report predicts a drop-off to 41,000 jobs next year without renewal of the tax credit.

Failing to support our domestic wind industry makes no sense. And losing the tax credit would all but guarantee more pollution — and threaten the creation of more jobs like mine.

This Earth Day, we should all commit ourselves to fighting pollution and limiting the sources of global warming. As part of that commitment, we should also push Congress to help the wind industry by extending these critical tax credits — for the sake of the planet but also for the sake of manufacturing workers in our hometown and all across the country.

Hurley, of Salem, is president of Local 82161 of IUE-CWA, the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America, which represents workers at GE in Salem.