A plan to develop a facility in Mount Airy for producing solar power is moving forward, with one recent development involving the city granting a right of way for a transmission line at the site.
“I find it very promising,” Martin Collins, Mount Airy’s community-development coordinator, said of that move stemming from an easement request by O2Energies, a Charlotte-based firm.
On June 1, the city commissioners approved a letter of intent to allow O2Energies to initiate the development of a 1-megawatt solar facility on six acres owned by the municipality near its wastewater-treatment plant located off U.S. 52.
Then at the commissioners’ last meeting on Aug. 19, they voted 5-0 to grant the right of way on city property to accommodate the installation of the power line.
“I think that is promising because ... they are actually trying to find out how to get the power on the grid,” Collins said of the solar energy that would be produced at the site.
Collins, who assists with such projects through his role as community-development coordinator, said to him the move aimed at connecting to the existing electrical system means the solar effort is “very close” to proceeding.
Joel Olsen, the managing director of O2Energies, said Tuesday afternoon that additional details on the project’s status will be released this week, but it is coming together well.
“Things are looking great,” Olsen added. “We’re really excited to be working in Surry County with this.”
The commissioners have not voted to grant a lease sought by O2Energies for two sites totaling roughly six acres near the sewage-treatment plant, where it wants to develop the solar farm. The firm seeks a long-term lease for the property, which it considers the most-suitable location for the solar-generating facility that would include a network of collectors.
Action on the lease and other steps are expected as the project moves forward, officials have said.
Even though the solar farm would be developed on city-owned land, the municipality is not expected to allocate any funds for constructing the power-generating facility or its operation. But it would receive money from the lease as well as property taxes on the solar plant.
During the recent meeting when the right-of-way easement for the power line was approved, the actual location of that line did prompt some discussion.
City Attorney Hugh Campbell, who has been involved in negotiations with O2Energies, told the commissioners that the positioning of the line won’t interfere with the use of the property affected.
Collins said a suggestion was made that its route be moved to the boundary of the city acreage near the Ararat River. “It’s a floodplain,” he said of the site. “The property is not likely to be used anyway.”
He added, “In my mind, it won’t have much impact on the future use of the property along (U.S.) 52.”
The city attorney said at the recent meeting that the ownership of the transmission line had not been finalized. “At this point, it’s a little uncertain as to who the owner of the line would be,” Campbell said.
I ty from the sunlight to serve about 200 homes, Olsen has said.
O2 Energies is working with a local contractor, Pike Electric Inc., to develop the solar farm. It also has made arrangements with Surry Community College to provide solar technology training for personnel involved with the operation, although there has been no word on the number of jobs that might be created.
In addition to its plans in Mount Airy, the Charlotte firm has proposed installing solar panels above about 6,000 square-feet of parking lot space at Surry Community College. The panels would be positioned so that parking capacity at SCC is not diminished.
College officials gave permission last week for moving ahead with that plan, which must receive final approval from the county commissioners and the state board of community colleges.
Contact Tom Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1924.