Strata Solar plans to build a major new solar plant in North Carolina, adding 100 MW DC, or about 80 MW AC, to its portfolio through a single project.
The four-year-old company previously focused primarily on smaller projects, many of them between 5 MW and 7 MW. But Strata Solar Vice President of Marketing and Sales Blair Schooff said this new project is the result of the company looking for ways to further cut the cost of its power as it looks to a potential future without the investment tax credit.
“We need to prepare ourselves,” Schooff said Feb. 11. “One of the ways to do that is to do one 100-MW project instead of 12 6.4-MW jobs. Each job, in isolation, has a lot of soft costs.”
Strata Solar has about 100 MW of solar capacity in the state and plans to add about 140 MW in 2013, Schooff said. In a statement, the company said it announced 12 solar farms in the past year and will be constructing more than 25 farms in 2013.
This latest project, to be built in Duplin County, N.C., would be by far the largest for both Strata Solar and North Carolina, costing roughly $250 million.
According to SNL data, the largest operating power project in the state is MEMC Electronic Materials Inc.’s 15.5-MW Davidson solar project. The largest planned projects are in the 20-MW range, including Strata Solar’s 20-MW Mount Olive farm and 19.9-MW Railroad Farm 2.
“The addition of a solar farm of this magnitude solidifies North Carolina as a player in the national solar landscape,” Strata Solar CEO Markus Wilhelm said in a statement. “This project also extends beyond the state with significant implications across the East Coast, and represents another example of Strata Solar’s commitment to providing a wealth of clean energy to the country.”
Schooff said Strata Solar plans to file an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission by the end of the month, with the aim of starting construction by the end of the year. Construction would take about 10 months following the project’s approval.
The company has been in talks with Duke Energy Corp.’s Progress Energy Carolinas to take the power. “We have long-standing relationships with Progress and Duke and we tend to make sure that we are 99.9% sure that things are going to happen,” he said, adding that they are not bidding into an RFP. Typically, the company has sought QF status for its projects, but the Duplin County project is too large to meet that criteria.
Negotiations will determine whether Strata Solar retains the renewable energy credits for the project. North Carolina has a renewable energy mandate, but the General Assembly is considering legislation that would roll back the requirement. Schooff said the company is closely following legislative developments in the state.
“We think the policy in place and enacted in North Carolina has been an excellent policy for catalyzing the industry,” he said. “We are actively growing jobs, and we are planning towards what has been on the horizon. We are hoping it stays that way.”
The company, which has so far focused on North Carolina for its utility-scale projects, will announce plans for out-of-state projects in June, Schooff added.