By Julia Cohn
The Maple View Farms in Hillsborough, known for its ice cream shop, now sports 286 solar panels beside its cows and hay bales. These panels collectively produce 180 kilowatts of energy per day, which is powering the farm and 235 homes in the surrounding area.
The solar farm is part of Duke Energy’s Solar Distributed Generation Project. This $50- million project funded 13 major solar panel installations in North Carolina including the Maple View Farms location and another nearby location at the Durham headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Duke Energy began this massive initiative in response to a bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2007. The bill established a Renewable and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard that requires 7.5% of the state’s energy to be renewable by 2014 and 12.5% to be renewable by 2021. Ellie Kinnaird, the General Assembly Senator representing Orange County, was instrumental in the passage of this bill.
“When we promoted this bill, we were hoping that all of the energy companies would begin to make changes,” Kinnaird told the ECHO.
Kinnaird went on to explain how energy companies are responding to the bill.
“With this bill, each energy company has a renewable energy requirement and has to fulfill it in different ways,” Kinnaird said. “One way to fulfill it is to go out of state, but we want to encourage our home-grown energy solar energy businesses. Duke Energy has invested a lot in out-of-state credit providers, which is disappointing, but Progress Energy has been helping local businesses.”
“Progress Energy had a huge solar array and used a Hillsborough company for the solar panels,” Kinnaird said. “They have made a great effort to help in-state solar manufacturing which is helping North Carolina to develop better solar technology.”
In addition to the General Assembly’s encouragement, Governor Beverly Perdue has taken action to promote investments in solar panels and solar technology. Last month, Perdue extended tax credits for families and businesses that use solar panels.
While the local impact of Maple View’s solar farm is already evident, the potential for national impact is yet to be seen. Duke Energy is the third-largest electric company in the nation, providing energy to over 2.4 million customers. Because of Duke Energy’s national standing, the recent actions of the company have potential to influence national legislation and efforts toward greater usage of renewable energies.