Town of Fairmont in Robeson County welcomes solar farms, jobs.
O2 Energies Inc., a North Carolina-based developer of large-scale ground-mounted solar power plants in the Southeast, today announced the ribbon cutting of the eastern North Carolina Fairmont Solar Farm. O2 Energies began collaborating with officials from the Town of Fairmont and the Robeson County Economic Development Commission in 2011, and kicked off construction of two 25-acre solar farms in Fairmont and Maxton in March of 2012.
The two solar farms have created work for more than 100 people in Robeson county and more than 30 local suppliers. The multi-million dollar projects will add more than $6 million to Robeson County's tax base. O2 Energies projects are also giving residents renewed hope and optimism about their towns' and county's future prosperity, according to local officials.
“Any time you've got some significant change in your economy, and people investing money into your area, it certainly gives folks an opportunity to feel good about what's going on,” said State Sen. Michael P. Walters. “We develop every O2 Energies solar farm to maximize the work opportunities for local suppliers, contractors and citizens,” said O2 Energies president Olee Joel Olsen.
To supply the solar modules, O2 Energies selected Renewable Energy Corporation, a company that employs almost 1000 Americans to manufacture the solar grade silicon used in their modules. Advanced Energy will supply the inverters, which are designed and manufactured in the US. To oversee construction of the project, O2 energies selected REC Solar, one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-experienced solar-energy system integrators.
"We worked with a terrific team of dedicated local partners," said Andy Noel, director of utility scale EPC for REC Solar. "Between O2 Energies, Robeson County, and the REC-contracted local crew, this project is truly a product of North Carolina in origins and construction. We look forward to working with all of these parties again and further helping North Carolina continue to expand its clean energy economy while fueling local job creation."
Townspeople quickly embraced the Fairmont Solar project, but Mayor Charles Kemp is hopeful that O2 Energies' choice of Fairmont will influence some young people's attitudes about living and working in a small town. Kemp explained, “This solar farm is located right beside Fairmont high school giving our teachers an opportunity to create field trips to the site and use it in their lesson plans to inspire our students to learn more about all forms of energy, and the career opportunities this the industry can provide them.'”
“This is outstanding,” said County Commissioner Tom Taylor. “These farms don’t interfere with anyone. They just sit there and generate clean energy. This is a win-win situation for everyone.” County Commissioner Roger Oxendine said, “Any time you can create work opportunities for 100 people in our county during a recession, it’s a good thing.”
Greg Cummings, Robeson County's director of economic development, added that the county welcomes the new jobs and capital investment. “You can't beat this type of electricity. It's very safe, clean, even looks good out in the pastures. Quite a few of our citizens are getting retrained through Robeson Community College to help put the equipment in, and the solar companies are putting them into jobs.”
The Fairmont solar farm and the Maxton solar farm will together produce more than 12,500 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, sufficient to meet the needs of more than 1,200 homes. GreenCo Solutions, owned by 22 of North Carolina’s Electric Membership Cooperatives, will purchase the Renewable Energy Certificates generated by both O2 Energies’ solar farms in Roberson County and Progress Energy will distribute the electricity through its grid.