Farming is a tradition in Reginald Parker’s family. His mother and her family grew up picking cotton as sharecroppers, and his dad picked tobacco. But Parker is continuing that legacy in a new vein — farming solar energy. He plans to open a six-acre, 1.4 megawatt solar farm in North Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a form of remembrance for his family, but also as a triumph for African American entrepreneurship in the South. “This land was originally used for cotton farming, so with our groundbreaking we are announcing the change from cotton farming to solar farming in North Carolina, and cotton farming is something I truly will not miss,” Parker told Grist. “It was something like servitude to be a sharecropper, but now we’re owners, and that’s a source of pride in my family.”
An MIT graduate, Parker learned about solar energy after he wrote a paper for the African Technology Forum where he proposed the use of solar energy in Zimbabwe. “People beat up on solar because of the initial start-up costs to install solar energy, but it’s still significantly less than the costs for coal,” Parker told Grist. “Coal is trying to stay in there, but coal and natural gas have two things working against them: Both are in limited supply.” Here’s to many years of bountiful sunshine in North Carolina.