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Mt. Airy solar farm taking shape

Mt. Airy News

Tom Joyce

Staff Reporter

— After months of planning and discussions, a solar farm is now taking shape in Mount Airy. Along with generating extra electricity, the facility is expected to spark the city’s economic-development efforts, officials say. “I think that companies will look at that and see how progressive we are becoming,” Dean Brown, a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, said Friday of the solar farm. “And that will make a difference.” The site of the farm is at the southern end of the city near Mount Airy’s wastewater-treatment plant. A firm called O2Energies, based in the Charlotte area, announced plans last year to build the solar farm in response to a mandate that major electrical companies such as Duke Energy supply a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources. The project, representing a $5 million-$6 million venture, originally was expected to encompass a six-acre tract of city-owned property that O2Energies is leasing. Its scope later was expanded, which led to city officials voting earlier this year to annex 32 acres at 165 Wastewater Treatment Road for the development. Martin Collins, the city’s community-development director who has worked closely with O2Energies on the project, said recently that the solar farm is reaching fruition. “The grading is completed,” said Collins, which paved the way for the installation of an anchoring system for the collectors. Previous reports indicated that the solar farm could be generating power by mid-September. The series of panels involved will produce enough electricity to supply hundreds of homes per year, with the solar energy being available at a time of day when usage is at its peak. While that will be important from an energy standpoint, the project also will say a lot about Mount Airy to the outside world, especially prospective companies, according to Brown. “It’s certainly showing our diversification and it’s showing that we are going green and clean with everything we’re doing,” said Brown. In addition to serving as a city commissioner, he is a member of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership who has actively sought to recruit new industry to the area. “Many small towns are not able to do that,” Brown said of such efforts.