The 340-acre site is capable of generating enough power for 12,000 homes a year, officials said.
Charles Gardner used to grow sod on a 440-acre farm in Cumberland and Bladen counties. Today, the site is covered with 271,500 solar modules capable of generating power for about 12,000 homes a year.
Gardner couldn’t be more pleased.
“It’s good for everything,” Gardner said Monday. “It’s good for me, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the community.”
Gardner was among a couple dozen people who attended a dedication, ribbon cutting and tour of the IS-42 solar project, which is complete and producing power through Duke Energy.
Officials from Depcom Power, which built the 92 megawatt facility, Canadian Solar and its subsidiary Recurrent Energy accompanied the guests on a bus tour of the property off County Line Road. Innovative Solar 42 leases the property from the Gardner family.
Andy Nyce, construction manager for Depcom, said work on the project began in December and was completed last week. It was built on about 340 of the site’s 440 acres.
“It was a fairly challenging job in a lot of aspects,” Nyce said.
The site contains 271,500 solar panels or modules. The modules, which are black on one side and white on the other, start the day facing east and rotate west to catch the sun’s rays.
The modules collect energy even on cloudy days such as Monday, said Jim Tyler, senior vice president and co-founder of Depcom, although more energy is captured on sunny days.
Tyler said the sunlight the modules capture contribute to cleaner energy.
“This would be like eliminating 11,000 cars from the road,” he said. “That’s how much greenhouse gas it’s eliminating.”
Work on the project was not without its challenges, officials said. The area’s high water table meant special care had to be taken to assure proper drainage.
However, the flat land made some aspects of construction easier, they said. And the fact that the area was already grassy made it easier to regrow vegetation on the property as required by the site’s permits.
The operation center for the site is in Scottsdale, Arizona. The maintenance center is in Birmingham, Alabama. No one is required to be on site to operate the facility.
“Once you’ve built it, you can to a certain extent walk away,” Nyce said.
Officials said about 275 workers were employed for about eight months while the site was being built, of which about 30 percent were veterans.
Johnnie Taul, chief operating officer of Depcom, said about $500,000 was donated to local charities as part of the project. They include Operation Blessing, Patriot Hunts, the Gray’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Falcon Children’s Home and The Fallen Linemen Foundation.
Gardner, who owns the property with his wife, Janet, son Charlie and daughter Elizabeth, said he thinks the former sod farm will be an asset to the community in its new use.
“I haven’t heard a single complaint about it,” he said. “They’ve been good corporate neighbors.”
The facility is the second of its type to open in recent months.
In August, Cypress Creek Renewables opened a 530-acre solar farm on Roslin Farm Road outside Hope Mills.
Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3561.