First Solar pitch follows county's lifting of solar project ban


By Chris Day
Multimedia Editor

Sunday, February 24, 2019

MOYOCK — Representatives of a global solar energy firm with interests in Currituck County addressed business leaders here last week.

Andy White and Jim Martin, of the Arizona-based First Solar, gave an hour-long presentation at the Currituck Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Roundtable at Southland Restaurant, Tuesday morning. Their appearance came on the heels of the county’s decision in late January to lift its two-year ban on construction of new solar energy facilities, or solar farms.

At their Jan. 22 meeting, the county’s Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 for an amendment allowing construction of new solar farms in the county. During the public comment portion of the meeting, White advised county officials of First Solar’s interest in building a 1,000-acre solar project in the county.

In addition to solar farm development and construction, First Solar also is a major manufacturer of cadmium telluride thin-film solar modules, or panels. The term thin film refers to the layer of the compound cadmium telluride that serves as a semiconductor in solar panels. The film is layered between other materials used in the photovoltaic process.

Another popular form of solar panel construction uses a crystalline silicon compound as the semiconductor.

Martin, who is an energy consultant and project developer, said solar energy is growing more competitive with other forms of alternative energies. He also noted that more big companies, like Amazon, want solar included in their energy portfolios.

Currituck is ideal location for solar energy because of its abundant sunshine and it is tapped into an electrical grid that provides power as far west as Chicago, he said.

When asked about the potential for job creation, Martin admitted that once construction is complete solar farms do not require an operations crew.

“It does not take anyone to operate a solar facility,” Martin said. “That’s one of the drawbacks of solar — it does not generate long-term jobs.”

The construction process will generate jobs, and there will be some workers who rotate to different facilities to perform basic maintenance and grounds work, he said.

Since solar facilities are self-sufficient they don’t add additional strains to the surrounding economy, Martin added.

White, who is the firm’s director of government affairs, opened Tuesday’s presentation with a brief introduction of the company, which is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona.

First Solar employs about 4,000 people worldwide, including its solar panel manufacturing facility in Ohio, White said. First Solar has developed and constructed or currently owns utility-scale solar energy facilities around the world, including a 141 megawatt facility in Chile, according to the firm’s website. First Solar’s thin-film modules are also used in solar farms around the world, including one in the African nation of Namibia.

For more information about First Solar, visit its website at www.firstsolar.com.