An abandoned golf course in lower Currituck may become the county’s third solar farm.
San Francisco-based Ecoplexus Inc. is seeking a conditional use permit for its second solar farm, which it hopes to build on the site of the former Goose Creek Golf and Country Club at 6562 Caratoke Highway in Grandy.
The company has nearly completed a solar farm in Shawboro and will sell electricity to Dominion North Carolina in the near future, said Tammie McGee, a spokesperson for Duke Energy Renewables, a division of Duke Energy.
Duke Energy Renewals owns and operates the Shawboro site, and will also be the owner/operator of the 2,034-acre solar farm currently under construction south of Moyock. The Grandy solar farm will be Duke Energy Renewals’ third in the county.
“We’ve had very good working relationships in Eastern North Carolina,” McGee said. “There’s really good solar resources there, which are surprisingly better than Florida,” she said, adding that Florida’s frequent afternoon showers limit the available sunlight.
The company enjoys an good relationship with landowners, she added, as the lease payments help them hang on to their property. Solar farms also help utilities meet state mandates for renewable energy, she added.
If approved, the 20-megawatt solar farm in Grandy would cover about 118 acres of the 121-acre parcel and produce energy for an average of 1,900 local homes, according to the proposal submitted to the planning board by Ecoplexis. The North Carolina Utilities Commission give its approval for a 19.99 megawatt photovoltaic electricity generating facility at the site in January 2015.
Initially, the company considered a “solar park,” for the now-fallow golf course, with public walking trails or greenways around its perimeter. However, at a community meeting in May, adjacent property owners objected to the idea of a public park, citing safety concerns, according to the planning department’s notes on the meeting.
The meeting was one of two held in the tasting room of Sanctuary Vineyards. Invitations were mailed to 70 adjacent property owners, and about 50 people attended the first meeting. Nathan Rogers, project development manager, and Halsey Kedrick, senior project manager, attended as representative of Ecoplexus. Jim Owens, the property owner, was also present.
Additional concerns were focused on the impact to property values and aesthetics during the first meeting, but Rogers said there was no evidence of solar farms in the state negatively impacting property values.
According to the plan submitted to the county’s Planning Board, the approximately 5 acres of road frontage zoned for general business along Carotoke Highway will be subdivided for future commercial development. Ecoplexus hopes to use the existing stand of trees along the property’s other borders to meet part of the county’s vegetative buffer requirement and intends to add plantings where necessary. Some trees on the interior of the site will have to be removed, and the course will be graded and leveled before construction begins.
At the commissioners regular meeting Jan. 4, the board approved changes to the unified development code that would reduce setback requirements for solar farms from 300 feet to 100 feet in some cases. Solar farms would have to abide by the 300-foot requirement if the solar farm is adjacent to homes, schools and other places where people gather.
In addition, a conditional rezoning will also now be required for solar array use, and the use will only be allowed in a district zoned for agriculture.
Warren Wilgus, who lives near the solar farm going up in the northern part of the county, was the only person who spoke up during a public hearing on the changes to the ordinance. However, his concerns regarded the project in Moyock, where he complained about light and noise from the construction.
The company promised to build berms, but hasn’t, he said. After some discussion, the general consensus was that trees planted on top of berms wouldn’t survive, and the company would complete the landscaping nearer the end of construction. The commissioners did say they would look into it, however. Night work on the site ended Dec.31.
A public hearing on the Grandy Golf Course project will likely be scheduled for early February.
source: Dee Langston, Outer Banks Voice