January 17, 2007 In more recent news from the solar power arena, the education sector is leading the charge towards clean power in North Carolina with NC State University operating the largest private solar power system in the State. The US$605,000 system was bankrolled by Richard Harkrader, owner of Durham-based Carolina Solar Energy, making it the largest privately financed solar photovoltaic (PV) array in North Carolina.

The project started back in 2004 and Harkrader believes it marks the beginning of a new chapter in energy production in the region. “I believe consumer demand for green power will quickly outpace supply in our state,” said Harkrader, “One of our goals with this project is to show that solar power is feasible on a large scale right here in North Carolina.”

The 75.6 kW solar array sits on land owned by N.C. State University however Carolina Solar Energy owns the project. The system comprises 435 panels that are tied to the electric grid and generate electricity that is purchased by Progress Energy. It is estimated that the solar plant will offset the burning of approximately 80,000 pounds of coal, which would produce 200,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year of operation.

While acknowledging the significance of the N.C. State solar array, Carolina Solar Energy’s founder stressed that more work remains to be done. “Photovoltaic solar technology has come a long way in the past few decades,” Harkrader said. “There's no doubt solar power is becoming a viable investment in North Carolina, and will improve the larger projects we build.” The N.C. State solar array is the first in a series of projects that Carolina Solar Energy plans to build. Future plans include several 100 kW systems hosted by businesses, schools, shopping centers and government facilities across the state.

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