Davidson College’s long-rumored solar farm drew another step closer this week, when Cornelius-based solar firm O2 Energies filed an application with state regulators for a $10 million solar panel array off Grey Road.
The solar farm would generate 3 megawatts of electricity using 15,000 to 20,000 small solar modules. It would be owned by the college and leased to O2, through a new company called Davidson Solar LLC.
The 59.6-acre parcel is on Grey Road, land the college bought from the Tevepaugh-Martin family in 2009 for $3.4 million.
O2 said in its application to the NC Utilities Commission it expects the solar farm to be operating by Dec. 31, 2014. But a college spokesman cautioned that the project is “still in the exploratory stage.” The college said in a statement:
Davidson College, as a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, has been exploring the use of alternative energy sources, including the development of a solar farm on the college grounds. To date, no commitments have been made. Davidson College, in partnership with all constituents with whom the solar farm may impact, is committed to a transparent, thoughtful process for determining whether we will move forward with this project.
O2 also has submitted an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The company still must reach an agreement with Duke Energy to connect with the power network.
O2 would sell electricity to Duke Energy Carolinas, at a standard rate the utility pays for wholesale solar power. O2 said it expects to sell 6.2 million kilowatt hours to Duke every year.
Davidson already has begun using solar energy on campus. A $600,000 project completed in 2012 added solar panels on top of Baker Sports Complex. The college said the facility saves it $25,000 a year in energy expenses.
That solar-panel project was funded by college, the Duke Endowment and a North Carolina state grant that is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.