EDC supports zoning for solar farm projects

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 08:25 PM

The Henderson-Vance County Economic Development Commission spoke out in favor of supporting a zoning ordinance for solar farm projects Wednesday morning.

Sam Watkins, chair of the EDC board, made a motion that the county approves the concept, given each farm is subject to a special-use permit, and it passed unanimously.

While the Vance County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance dealing with solar collectors Monday night, no action was taken on a counterpart of the ordinance related to solar farms.

“We’re recommending that the county approve the concept and each farm be subject to a special-use permit,” Watkins said. “I believe that if we look at jobs and taxpayers, that’s the proper approach.

“That permit protects anybody who feels like it’s working a hardship on them particularly.”

Stuart Litvin, director of the EDC board, also voiced reason for approval of the ordinance, citing job creation and an increase in the tax base as key benefits.

“While these would be temporary jobs, this would be job skills that would be learned by some 130, 140 individuals, hopefully the majority from Vance County,” Litvin said. “I’m looking at the jobs, I’m looking at the temporary increase in the tax base — the equipment that can be taxable.”

Carolina Solar Energy made the initial request to amend the zoning ordinance, passed on by the county commissioners in favor of gaining more research.

“No decision has been made as far as that’s concerned,” said Tommy Hester, chair of the Vance commissioners. “That was so more commissioners could get more info as far as being more educated.”

Hester has a guest speaker from N.C. State University in line to give a presentation on the topic before the next commissioners meeting. He fully supports the views of the EDC in terms of moving forward with the ordinance.

“My opinion is that it should be taken care of exactly the way the EDC endorsed this morning,” Hester said. “Of course anything can happen, but you can narrow down your ordinance or your requirements so narrow that you end up driving money out of the community.”

Other commissioners had expressed concerns with disposal procedures and removal costs, which Litvin addressed Tuesday.

“I understand the concerns of the members of the board of commissioners about what happens if the company goes out of business, who’s responsible, what happens when the 25 years is over with, who removes everything,” Litvin said. “Carolina Solar said they have the answer for that.

“I suggested that they respond very aggressively to those concerns.”

Semprius, the newest manufacturing plant in Henderson, creating high efficiency solar modules, creates valid and vital reasoning for approving the solar farm zoning ordinance.

“With Semprius, one of our biggest accomplishments, it doesn’t make sense to get them situated in the community, and then turn around and say you can’t do anything,” Hester said.

Watkins provided similar comments.

“Of course you’ve got Semprius here who spent a ton of money,” Watkins said. “They’re in the solar business.”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com