Solar excitement building over plant coming to Davidson County

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Paris Goodnight
Salisbury Post
Construction on the SunEdison solar power plant in Davidson County isn’t scheduled to begin until next year, but people are already getting excited about the new electricity source joining the grid.
Mike Beaver, co-owner and president of Beaver Brothers in Salisbury, said, “It’s very exciting for the community. Anything like that that comes out in the press gets people’s interest flowing about solar energy.”
Beaver Brothers has been involved in solar energy for decades, especially using the sun to heat water. Beaver said that use is a cousin to the photovoltaic process that converts the sun’s energy into electricity as the SunEdison plant will do.
Construction is planned to begin later next year, but the company hasn’t announced the Davidson County site where the plant will be built. Davidson County has a 2,400-acre industrial site being developed near Interstate 85 and is among the areas being considered for the plant.
With Duke Energy Carolinas announcing it will buy the electricity produced by the solar farm, the commitment to the area is clear.
Paige Sheehan, a spokesperson for Duke Power in Charlotte, said the modular building process will have some power being delivered by 2010 and then full power by 2011.
Sheehan said Davidson County has sunny days 60 percent of the time. She said that points out solar’s potential, but also its limitations, with power being produced only during daylight hours.
Duke Power’s only other contact with solar power is in demonstration-type applications. But this has the company diving into industrial-scale power from solar.
Beaver, who runs his family business with his brother, Trip, said much of solar power activity is seen in the research and development phase, such as solar-powered cars. But moving it from the lab, or races that are meant as showcases, to the real world isn’t easy. It’s been cost effective for years to use solar power to heat water for homes and businesses.
“You’ve got to put the capital out there,” he said.
But as energy costs skyrocket, it makes it easier to make that original payment to get the benefit over time.
As for solar-powered cars, don’t look for them on the highways anytime soon. Beaver said fuel cells and other types of power will likely surface first. So much surface area is needed to power a machine, even one made of ultralight materials. Such cars wouldn’t be very safe on today’s roads either.
“They’re something fun to do, to promote creativity,” he said.