The celebration came in the form of speeches, a ribbon-cutting and music from the Roanoke Rapids High School Marching Band as the Center for Energy Education opened its doors.
“This is a great day for our community,” said Mozine Lowe, the center’s executive director. “Things have been done to make this building energy efficient. It’s a unique building with a unique reach.”
Lowe said the center is designed to reach all ages and a partnership with Halifax Community College will help it develop workforce training.
The college has already had special sessions at the center focusing on workforce development and educational activities and presentations were on the grand opening agenda.
What led to the center was the construction of a 235-acre, 30 megawatt solar farm on the grounds of the old airport, located off Highway 158.
“We thank the Halifax County Board of Commissioners. The economic development commission was right here with us from day 1,” said George Veit, chair of the center’s board of directors and CEO of Geenex, which built the solar farm. “The Halifax Convention and Visitors Bureau will help make this a great attraction.”
Veit also recognized HCC, state legislators for their support and North Carolina State University. Veit said while today was a great milestone, the community and industry needs to rally behind the center. “We can see a vision coming together. We want to bring opportunity and information. We need to work together to make this a success. We need all of you to spread the word.”
Board of Commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant said the center brings educational opportunities to local schools. HCC is offering training in solar jobs and Roanoke Electric has trained linemen at the facility.
James Pierce, vice chair of the center’s board, thanked everyone for coming.
Juergen Fehr, a member of the center’s board and COO of Geenex, told the audience before the ribbon-cutting, “I’m truly honored and blessed to be here today. We have big plans and big vision.”
North Carolina is currently ranked second in the nation in renewable energy, Fehr said. “There’s a lot to be done in the political field. The next generation is going to pick it up and take it to the next level.”
What many don’t understand about the solar industry are its many layers, from development to construction and from environmental to metal works. “So many people are involved. We want to bring it back to where we’re number one.”