Oxford’s planned solar farm to be scaled back to work with preexisting Duke grid

Final output likely to be closer to 2-3 megawatts, according to project manager

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A pending solar farm project on Oxford city land that was projected to produce just under 6 megawatts of power will have to be scaled back in order to work within Duke Energy’s preexisting electric grid.

Michael McNulty, the senior project manager for the clean-energy facility developer BQ Energy, estimated that the project’s actual final output would be closer to two to three megawatts of power, though that number is not yet set.

The holdup relates to the point of interconnection — how much power the solar farm can produce without overwhelming Duke Energy’s current electric system. McNulty said the two entities have found that it would cost too much money for the requisite system upgrades that would enable the system to handle nearly 6 megawatts of renewable energy.

McNulty said a final agreement should be made “any day now.” Once set, BQ Energy can move forward on acquiring necessary permits and specifically designing the solar farm within the new confines.

“We have to get this piece figured out before we do anything else, and it’s really just so we don’t spend a lot of money doing engineering on a project that is not financially feasible to plug in,” McNulty said.

Duke Energy spokesperson Casey Kroger said the utility is “currently reviewing the application and recently completed a study as it relates to the Oxford solar site. We look forward to connecting with the developer soon.”

BQ Energy entered into an option-to-lease agreement with the City of Oxford for $10,000 back in 2021 for the land formerly used as a city landfill, near Chestnut Street. City Manager Doug Elliott said the city is not funding the project in any way, and the company has until September 2024 to exercise that option. Should the lease continue under its current agreement, the city would collect about $10,000 a year from BQ Energy.

Elliott said the proposal was to “develop a solar project that would generate an estimate of just under 6 megawatts of power” back when the option to lease was originally signed.

McNulty and Elliott both said they are confident the option to lease will be exercised.

BQ Energy specializes in building solar farms on former landfill sites that now sit vacant. The company currently has over 40 projects nationwide that are either operational, or in progress, including a massive solar farm under construction in Columbus, which has made the company familiar with operating in Ohio.

“We anticipate this to be a pretty smooth project for BQ staff to get permitted, engineered and then built,” McNulty said.

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