Two solar farms planned for Montgomery County could provide power to the Heart of North Carolina MegaPark, a major business park proposed for Moore and Montgomery counties.
O2 Energies in Cornelius announced last week that it will build a $15 million, 6.3-megawatt solar farm on the border of Star and Biscoe on a 37-acre site that abuts the MegaPark. The company, which will sell electricity back to Duke Energy, is also planning a second project on 160 acres south of Biscoe.
“I think it’s a positive,” said Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress. “These projects fit right into our concept of the park in the sense that it’s inclusive of contemporary environmental components.”
The 3,000-acre commercial and industrial park would be developed as a green, environmentally sustainable project while minimizing the use of nonrenewable resources. Specific zoning and covenants will protect on-site wetland areas and wildlife habitats, preserve natural aesthetics and promote conservation planning.
“Solar farms being located within close proximity of the park is in keeping with that theme,” Corso said.
The smaller farm would be capable of producing enough electricity to -serve more than 2,500 residences. Construction is scheduled to begin in April and be completed in October.
Meanwhile, a site assessment and feasibility study for the MegaPark is being done by Creative Economic Development Consulting in Elkin.
The study has three major components, said Crystal Morphis, founder and CEO of Creative.
“The first is an assessment of site characteristics, and the majority of that work has been completed. We just started phase two, which is determining the types of companies or industries that may find the park attractive. The final phase is determining the competitive position of the park, particularly in relation to other large parks.”
Morphis said the initial assessment shows that the park is better suited for multiple users rather than a few large users.
“It’s already starting to take form of what it could be,” she said.
Corso said the study is critical because it will determine if the project moves forward or is scrapped.
“We purposely built the plan that way,” he said. “We think it will work, but we don’t know. If the feasibility study says it will work, then we will go forward. The next piece is the design of the park. The final phase is marketing and selling the park. One builds on the other.”
Morphis commended the counties for thinking long term.
“Rural counties like Montgomery and Moore have to have a vision to support economic growth,” she said. “Building an industrial park takes a lot of time. These types of projects can easily take up to a decade to bring some success.”
The MegaPark was announced in August 2010 after the county commissioners in each county signed a resolution of support to endorse moving forward.
The site consists of undeveloped land at the northwestern corner of Moore County and the eastern corner of Montgomery County. It is bounded by N.C. 24-27 and Spies Road and essentially bisected by the new Interstate 73-74, but the majority of the acreage lies in Moore County.
Still, more than one-third of the land lies in Montgomery County, so the entire park is designated Tier 1 for state incentives. That means companies interested in locating there would receive a $12,500-per-new-job tax credit and a 7 percent tax credit for investment in personal property.
Moore County, on the other hand, is classified at the other end of the spectrum at Tier 3 and qualifies for meager assistance from the state.
The park would be built out over 20 years, under current projections.