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Strata Solar plans 100-megawatt solar project in eastern NC – Charlotte Business Journal

Senior Staff Writer-Charlotte Business Journal

Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar plans a 100-megawatt solar farm in Duplin County and says it will sell the power to Progress Energy Carolinas.

Strata CEO Marcus Wilhelm says construction on the $250 million project is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter and will be completed in about five months. He says Strata expects to have a crew of about 400 working the project.

Progress Energy will not comment on the project. The company’s policy is not to discuss projects until a power purchase agreement has been signed. Wilhelm says the agreement is still being negotiated. But he says Strata has been in talks with Progress for 15 months and Strata is confident that the deal will proceed.

Wilhelm made the announcement as Strata prepares to commission the first of 13 solar projects it will complete this year in partnership with Canadian Solar Inc., a panel manufacturer and solar developer based in Ontario Canada.

More planned

The projects will be built across North Carolina. Each project will be about 6.4 megawatts, for a total of more than 80 megawatts of direct current. Converting the power to alternating current for sale to utilities will reduce the output to about 65 megawatts. The first project, in Fuquay-Varina, is complete. It will be commissioned and start producing power withing two weeks, Wilhelm says.

A second of the same size, is under construction in Mount Olive.

Just those Canadian Solar projects, for which Strata already has financing, will exceed the 70 megawatts (direct current) of solar power Strata built in North Carolina in 2012.

Wilhelm says altogether Strata plans to build 150 megawatts worth of solar projects in the state this year. That includes at least one 20-megawatt farm in the state this year. N.C. regulators approved Strata’s plans for a proposed 20-megawatt project in Mount Olive late last year. That is likely to be the company’s first N.C. project of that size.

Strata is also building the 1.1-megawatt rooftop solar project at Charlotte’s Ikea store.

Out of state

The Duplin County project will be built on 400 acres near Warsaw that Strata is leasing for the farm. Wilhelm says the company will file an application for approval of the project with the N.C. Utilities Commission next week.

And Strata is doing more work in other states. Plans will be announced this month for two 20-megawatt projects in an adjoining state. It is also building projects in California, where it has a sister company in residential systems installer Paramount Solar. Wilhelm says Strata is invested in Paramount and he serves as chairman of the board.

Strata has been building projects for just three year. It built about 9 megawatts worth of solar capacity in 2011, and it has quickly stepped up its activity from there.

Wilhelm says that his company has had 400 construction workers on sites in North Carolina for the last several months. He expects to ramp up hiring for construction as the number of projects increase this year.