February 11, 2016

Construction is moving along at CHEC solar project


Construction is moving along quickly at Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative's Community Solar Garden, which is located on a 1.3-acre site next to the Hatteras Island Ocean Center in Hatteras village.

Hannah Solar is the contractor and is in the process of installing concrete footers and 180 solar panels, which will provide approximately 50 kilowatts of energy.

Installation of the Solar Garden was expected to be completed before the end of 2015, but issues with the soil and placing the concrete footers and with the weather delayed the start of construction until this week.

Next week, CHEC will begin selling rights to the panels to its members at a cost of $685 each.

Members who purchase the panels will get a credit on their monthly power bills over the next 20 years that will vary according to the project's output, but will probably be in the range of $2 to $3.

Just like with water heater sales, CHEC will offer one-year, on-bill financing of the panel energy rights for 5 percent interest.  On $685, the monthly payment would be $58.64 and the total interest over the year will total $18.66.

"Community solar is an attractive option for our members who rent their homes, for members who do not have a south-facing roof, or for those who may not want to penetrate their roof in our coastal environment,” said Susan Flythe, CHEC general manager and executive director. “Community solar makes solar accessible to all of our members.”

CHEC isn't expecting to sell out of the solar panels immediately.  The cost of solar energy has decreased significantly, but it is still expensive, says CHEC general manager Susan Flythe, and not as cost effective as natural gas or nuclear energy.

However, she also said that several members reserved panels before construction started.

The price for CHEC panels was set according to financial modeling done by the National Renewable Cooperative Organization (NRCO), a group that CHEC and other North Carolina cooperatives are working with to do their projects.  Four in North Carolina were completed in 2014, and nine are to be completed by the end of the year, all under the auspices of the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation and NRCO.

For more information, contact Laura Ertle, director of public relations and marketing, at [email protected].


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