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Wilson’s new solar farms nearing completion
2017-02-22

 

The 60-acre solar farm on Downing Street is one of eight constructed recently by GCL New Energy to add renewable energy for the city of Wilson.

BRIE HANDGRAAF | TIMES

Posted Sunday, February 19, 2017 8:40 pm

By Brie Handgraaf

Times Staff Writer

The transformation of roughly 430 acres of underutilized land into renewable energy sources is nearly complete as GCL New Energy crews finish the eight solar farms.

“This is a green energy, so no one has to worry about greenhouse gas emissions,” said Chris Ebel, a director at GCL New Energy. “There have been approximately $1.4 million worth of upgrades to Wilson’s electric grid because of these projects that are paid for by us. The annual revenue to Wilson Energy is about $400,000, so the city is gaining and the landowners remain the landowners, so everyone benefits.”

A developer put together the eight projects — one each on Downing Street, Bloomery Road, St. Rose Church Road, Old Sharpsburg Loop, Jonesy Road and Ward Boulevard as well as two on Charleston Street — with the city, then sold them to GCL for construction.

The China­based company brought in a workforce of about 300 people to complete the work, with three solar farms awaiting testing, two nearing mechanical completion and three expected to be complete near the beginning of March. Testing for the farms takes about 15 to 20 days, but the goal is to have the first five sites producing solar power for the city by March 31, Ebel said.

GCL Chief Finance Officer Steve Liang was in Wilson recently to see the projects firsthand and ensure construction was on schedule. While the panels used in Wilson were produced by another company, they contain a silicone chip manufactured by GCL.

“The silicone chips actually produce the power,” Ebel explained. “When the sunlight hits them, they vibrate very quickly and create the energy.”

Six of the sites have a maximum power output at peak performance of 10 megawatts while two have an output of about 5 megawatts.

“The modules generate the power and the wiring underneath comes to what we call an inverter,” Ebel said. “It takes the DC power and coverts it to AC power, which is what you use in your home. From here, it flows to one of our power pads and from there, it flows to the power poles and onto the electric grid.”