Monday, September 24, 2012

8-MW Solar Farm to be Built in NC

ESA Renewables, which plans to build a seven-acre solar farm in Selma, is exploring the possibility of solar farm elsewhere in Johnston County.

The company is closing in on a deal with Selma leaders that would allow it to build a seven-acre, $10 million solar farm on Ricks Road between U.S. 70 and U.S. 301.

The proposed 8-megawatt farm would generate enough electricity power hundreds of homes, said ESA spokesman Craig Livingston. The company would connect to the town’s electricity grid and distribute the power through Progress Energy. The project would create 80 jobs, Livingston said.
The company will have no problem meeting the town’s conditions for a solar farm, he said. “We try to follow town regulations everywhere we go,” he said. “We’ve received a list of conditions, and we will meet them all.”

Those conditions include a chain-link fence and an eight-foot vegetation buffer, said Livginston. Town planner Ryan Simons said Selma would also require the company to shield other properties from any outdoor lighting.

"We’re not asking for anything unusual,” Simons said. “If they can come to an agreement with Progress Energy … and it meets our approval, we’re fine.”

Johnston County could be getting more ESA solar farms, Livingston said. The company is looking at several sites in Smithfield and near Newton Grove along the Johnston-Sampson line. Those plans are in the early stages, but ESA wants its solar farms to be close to Interstate 95. That would make it easier for maintenance crews to reach them. Also, each site would need to be close to 10 acres and near power-transmission lines.

Smithfield planning director Paul Embler said the town has received a few informal inquiries from ESA, but the company has not yet submitted an application. Representatives of the company asked about one property, off Brogden Road, earlier Embler said. He has not heard back from ESA since and is unsure whether the company is still interested.

Embler said ESA was one of several companies inquiring about the possibility of building solar farms in Smithfield. “They have come in and talked to us, but no one has put in a formal request,” he said.
Smithfield has no solar farms, but zoning ordinances allow them in industrial and agricultural districts. Under the rules, solar farms would be subject to special-use permits, and as part of that, their requests would have to go before two public hearings.

Smithfield has plenty of room for solar farms, although residents and town leaders would have to decide how many would be too many, Embler said. “If we were to get a half-dozen requests in a six-month period, we may have to look at our land-use plan and see where it fits in,” he said. “It can get to a point where it’s too many.”


No comments: