FAIRMONT — O2 Energies Inc. shed some light on its forthcoming solar farm in Fairmont during a project meeting Thursday.
After a year and a half of development, Joel Olsen, president of the Cornelius company, announced that construction on the $13 million farm is slated to begin within the next three weeks.
The farm will be located on Turkey Branch Road and will supply power to 825 homes. Construction of the farm will be overseen by FLS Energy, a company based in Asheville. The farm is expected be up and running by Oct. 1.
During the meeting, which was held inside the Fairmont Heritage Center, Olsen addressed a small crowd that included Fairmont Mayor Charles Townsend, former Mayor Charles Kemp, Commissioner Amelia Ann McLean, and Robeson County Economic Development Director Greg Cummings.
“We want to thank everyone who has been involved in helping us get to this point,” Olsen said. “We consider ourselves part of the community and want to remain so.”
As a token of his appreciation, Olsen donated a check for $200 to the Border Belt Farmer’s Museum and Welcome Center.
“We like to support causes that both protect the history and the culture of the community and agriculture has been the backbone of Robeson County,” Olsen said.
Kemp, who currently works as a curator at the Border Belt, accepted the donation of behalf of the museum.
“You ought to be commended for the enormous concentration of faith and trust that you’ve placed in this town,” Kemp said.
In 2012, O2 Energies developed a 25-acre solar farm near Fairmont High School, as well as a farm in Maxton. The Turkey Branch farm will occupy 30 acres of land and will generate five megawatts of electricity.
“This farm is about 30 percent larger than what we did at Fairmont High School, so it’s a major project,” Olsen said.“The only land disturbance is trenching. On a 30 acre site, you may disturb half of an acre. Some companies will just scrape all the topsoil off, which is not something that needs to be done.”
Once the farm is operational, it will serve as a pasture for free-range sheep to graze.
“The sheep maintain the grass without using diesel fuel,” Olsen said. “And they make no sound, except for “bah” every once in a while.”
As many as 80 people will be working simultaneously on the project during the peak of construction, according to FLS Energy Project Manager Holly Crabill.
“The panel installation takes about 30 days and you need a lot of hands to put it all together,” she said.
Olsen believes the farm will prove to be a valuable asset in enticing businesses to locate to Fairmont.
“More power’s going into the grid and for the local grid, it’s reducing the total load on the substation. The town can accept new businesses without additional investment to the infrastructure,” he said. “It brings a lot of positive attention to Fairmont and it ties in really well with Fairmont’s image.”