Solar panels to teach, help community in Elon

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ELON, N.C. -- Elon University's solar farm on the south end of campus will not only be used for environmental and sustainable studies but the energy produced will be purchased by Duke Energy.

Elon University spokesman Eric Townsend said the 9,900 solar panel farm is a part of the university's sustainable master plan and the opportunity to provide energy is a "win-win situation."

"For us it's a great resource to have here because we can teach our students the economics behind solar energy production," Townsend said. "We set out a few years ago to be stewards of the environment. The solar farm fit in line with our sustainability plan and it just made sense."

The farm is located on South Oak Avenue within the 15-acre Loy Farm.

The university is leasing the land and the solar panels have been installed and are being maintained by a New Jersey company called Suntuity.

Townsend said the financial details of the lease will not be released.

Duke Energy representative Randy Wheeless said the farm is one of 600 in the state and will produce about 3 megawatts of clean energy.

Wheeless said the energy produced will go to an area with the "most need."

"The electric grid is almost like your blood system. The power will go where it needs to be used so when we purchase power from someone like Elon it's probably going somewhere near the community because there's power being used nearby," Wheeless said.

Elon University estimates the energy produced is enough to power 415 homes.

Neighbor Betsy Harrington admits the panels are a bit of an eye sore but is happy to hear the energy produced will go beyond the campus.

"Elon has got such a wealth of resources and money. It's something that would help the community more than it would help them so, I'm all about it,” Harrington said.

Wheeless said the solar production will begin the end of spring 2015.