ROANOKE RAPIDS — Halifax County is now on the forefront of solar energy technology in the Southeast thanks to a collaboration between the county and green-energy companies like Geenex.
A new solar panel was constructed outside of the Halifax County Visitors Center Thursday as an example of the panels that will eventually be built at the old Halifax Airport.
“It’s a great day ... They (Geenex and its partners) bring a new industry in Halifax County,” said Cathy Scott, executive director for the Halifax County Economic Development Commission.
During “Solar Day in Halifax County” Geenex CEO Georg Veit addressed a crowd of county officials, business owners and interested residents about the progress his company has made.
“This is the start of the project we’re building out there (the old airport), so in a way, this is the first day of construction of this project,” Veit said.
The new panel just outside of the center, was constructed by workers from Schletter, a company that helps produce frames for solar panels.
The construction Geenex is working on is not going to be all about solar panels though.
Scott noted it would create jobs for the county. Geenex is obligated to create 12 full-time jobs, but there would be more opportunities when it comes to building the solar panels and property. Mike Whitson, president of Paradigm Consulting Group, a partner with Geenex, estimated between 50 and 100 people would be needed to build the project.
Veit said the company is also planning on building a Solar Center of Excellence, which would provide a means of education about solar energy for residents and visitors. The center would use one of the pre-existing buildings on the property.
Whitson said he wants Halifax County to became the focal point for solar energy.
“This has been a long road for me,” Whitson said. “When I was wondering curiously why Halifax County had two airports ... oh there’s an old airport, maybe we could have a good use for it.”
Thus began the work to create a solar power field. With most of the land already developed and ready to build on, the solar companies just have to re-purpose buildings they need and start installing the solar panels. The plan is to develop 120 acres for solar power.
The Center for Excellence would bring together local schools and colleges to develop educational initiatives and training related to solar energy. Beyond that, Scott said, it would also be a means of bringing in tourists to see how solar energy can be produced.
“We want to really make Halifax County the solar center of the Southeast, and we’re really well on our way to accomplishing that goal,” Whitson said.
Once the first round of buildings is complete, Whitson said there could be an expansion on the land. Scott said the use of the land would bring “income for idle property.”