EDPR begins construction on 500-acre Misenheimer Solar Park, its first project in North Carolina

After years of development, construction began this week on a renewable energy project in Misenheimer.

The Misenheimer Solar Park, which will be on 500 acres of private land about a half mile west of Pfeiffer University along both sides of U.S. Highway 52, is being developed by EDP Renewables, a Houston-based company that operates 58 wind farms and nine solar parks across more than 20 states and parts of Canada and Mexico. The park will feature approximately 200,000 panels, ranging from three to four feet by six to seven feet in length.

“We have equipment on the ground in both the northern and the southern tracks,” EDPR construction manager Jon Voltz said during a construction kickoff open house Wednesday at Pfeiffer’s Stokes Student Center.

Construction of the solar park is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

EDPR is working with IEA Constructors, an infrastructure construction company for renewable energy, to complete the solar park. It should be finished by the end of the year, Voltz said. The civil engineering work should last until around June, according to the company’s projected timeline. The solar panels should begin to be installed in the early summer and completed by the fall.

The project will create hundreds of jobs for people within the construction, manufacturing and electrical sectors. Many permanent positions will be available once the solar park is operational.

“It’s always helpful to have local people assisting on the projects,” Voltz said. “They know the area, it benefits the project and obviously the community.”

EDPR Construction Manager Jon Voltz speaks with EDPR Priority Project Manager Emily Hughes Morilla.

The park will have an installed capacity of 74 megawatts, making it likely one of the largest projects in the state. The power generated, equivalent to the consumption of more than 12,000 North Carolina homes, will support the area’s electric grid and be purchased by Duke Energy.

The solar panels will absorb the sunlight and convert it into electricity. It will then be collected and transformed via inverters into alternating-current and entered into the electrical grid through a substation after being converted to the proper voltage.

EDPR’s relationship with the village and county will not end once the park is up and running. The company plans to operate the facility for the life of the project, which means continuing to form relationships with members of the community.

EDPR has three solar parks in South Carolina, but the project in Misenheimer, which will be larger, represents a first for the company.

“It’s a pretty neat project and it’s our first one in North Carolina,” said Tom LoTurco, executive vice president of development, Eastern Region, noting the company hopes to bring additional projects to the state.

The solar park represents a capital investment of at least $70 million, according to the company, and will disperse millions of dollars to local governments throughout the life of the project, including an estimated $3.5 million in taxes to support local schools and community services.

EDPR experts on development, construction, engineering and environmental subjects were at the open house to answer questions from the public, which included county officials, Misenheimer residents and Pfeiffer students.

County officials, Misenheimer residents and Pfeiffer students attended the open house event.

The solar panels will be on property owned by five landowners, who will be paid more than $27 million through the life of the park, once it is in operation.

“It’s exciting and I think it’s going to be great for the community,” said John Pickler, owner of Long Creek Farms, who has provided 230 of his 242 acres to the project.

Companies have contacted him and other landowners over the years about the idea for a solar park, he said, but in getting to know EDPR officials, he is confident in their work.

“These people here, they’ve done their homework and they are a very, very top-notch group,” he said.

Pickler bought the land several years ago, which also includes the old Barringer Gold Mine.

“Not many people own a gold mine and a solar park,” he said.