New solar farm provides energy, jobs to Avery County
August 5, 2011
In early July, construction began on a solar farm, or solar array, outside the Town of Crossnore, on Trim Branch Road. The solar farm, which was constructed across six acres of farmland, consists of hundreds of solar panels mounted on frames and are ideally positioned to absorb the sun’s ray, converting them into electricity and providing energy for local homes. O2 developers coordinated the project, hiring Strata Solar to train workers and complete the installation of the panels.
Strata Solar needed specially trained laborers for the various aspects of solar panel installation. Because no such workforce existed here in Avery County, Strata Solar collaborated with Mayland Community College in order to select and train a group of capable local men and women for the specific skills needed for the job. In all, Strata Solar has employed 15 individuals, not to mention the various sub-contractors who were required for various aspects of the project.
Besides a job, Strata Solar also provided those individuals with training.
John Morrison, the project’s chief operating officer, explained that the company’s goal was to establish a qualified work force across the state, ensuring that future projects could move forward. To accomplish this, they had to train their new employees. Coordinating with Mayland Community College, the company provided free training, not only in the technical aspects of installing solar panels, but also in OSEA standards, in which every worker received certification. Even when the solar farm is complete, workers will have additional opportunities because they will then qualify to sit for the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) exam, which will open up future opportunities in the growing solar energy industry. Morrison hopes that the skills and training that the workforce receives will enable them to work for future O2 Energies or Strata Solar projects. Morrison explained that the Avery County workforce will be highly capable, as each member has had at least some experience with every aspect of solar panel installation, ensuring that they will be prepared for future jobs.
The solar farm, which will be capable, at peak conditions, of producing one megawatt of clean, carbon-free energy per hour, should be completed by mid- to late-August. Morrison predicted that more solar arrays will be cropping up across the country in light of the dropping cost of solar panels. Recent advances and continued research into the production of solar panels has forced the price to drop more that 60 percent during the past three years, and will probably continue to force down prices in the near future.