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Ribbon cut on solar field at Maple View

Field to provide energy to 235 homes

Ken Kernodle, Joe Hackney, Valerie Foushee, Steve Troxler, Brett Carter, Allison Nichols and Bob Nutter cut a ribbon at Maple View Farm in Hillsborough Thursday to celebrate the farm’s new solar energy field.
Ken Kernodle, Joe Hackney, Valerie Foushee, Steve Troxler, Brett Carter, Allison Nichols and Bob Nutter cut a ribbon at Maple View Farm in Hillsborough Thursday to celebrate the farm’s new solar energy field.

Maple View Farm consists of more than 400 acres of farm land, about 300 cows, an on-site milk-bottling operation and now an acre of solar panels.

A small crowd gathered under a tent on the farm Thursday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carborro Chamber of Commerce to honor the solar field’s opening.

Duke Energy constructed the 780-panel unit at 3109 Dairyland Road in Hillsborough as part of the company’s Solar Distributed Generation Project.

Director of governmental affairs for Duke Energy Kathy Hawkins said the company chose the Maple View Farm location because of its excellent solar potential and the strong customer interest in the area.

The $50 million project, one of the first of its kind in the country, will produce 10 megawatts of energy — enough to power about 1,300 homes. This site is one of 13 North Carolina commercial solar fields in Duke Energy’s project.

“I just wondered what the cows were thinking,” Duke Energy President Brett Carter said at the dedication ceremony.

Carter said the field, which went live Wednesday, will be able to power 235 homes.

In April 2009, the farm also launched an education center consisting of four classrooms with rotating science themes like insects, weather and animal habitats.

“The center we’re sponsoring inside is going to help push sustainable energy, and our children are the ones who have to carry this forward,” Carter said.

N.C. Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler said the solar energy field is a great example of how energy can provide another way for farms to diversify.

“Anything we can do to help farmers stay on the farm and make a living guarantees that we’ll have food for the future,” he said.

Troxler oversees 17 different divisions of more than 1,400 employees and said agriculture is still the state’s number one industry — bringing in $74 billion last year.

“Agriculture can and will lead the way and grow us out of this recession,” he said.

N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, was a key player in passing the 2007 bill requiring energy companies to have at least 7.5 percent renewable energy by 2014 and 12.5 percent by 2021.

The bill was necessary for the creation of the Duke Energy project.

“It’s nice to have energy from a source other than a coal-powered plant that comes with all sorts of side effects,” Kinnaird said.

N.C. Speaker of the House Joe Hackney, D-Chatham, attended Thursday’s ceremony and said after growing up milking cows on a farm, he was happy to be on one again for the occasion.

“The road to sustainability is a long and rocky one, and this is just a stop along the way.”

Contact the City Editor

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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