Zoning board approves first solar farm

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 06:25 PM

Henderson zoning officials on Tuesday approved a Carolina Solar Energy, LLC, solar farm on 20 acres near U.S. 1 and Martin Creek Road.

The decision came less than 24 hours after Vance County commissioners passed an ordinance for solar farms in the county.

Carolina Solar spokesman and lead installation technician Jordan Nance said it is the first of hopefully several others in the county, and company officials would be interested in learning about more 20-plus acreage lots that meet specific criteria for solar farms.

The Henderson Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously authorized a special use permit for Carolina Solar to lay out, according to a company schematic, more than 500 solar panels on the back half of the lot south of the Walmart distribution center.

Nance assured zoning board members that the farm would not pose any noise problems, and the black panels would not give off any dangerous reflection from their angled positioning. Power will be fed to Progress Energy.
"That's how we make our money," Nance said. "We maintain the panels as needed, plus we check on them twice a year to make sure we are achieving a maximum energy output."

The farm will present a property improvement and industrial use for the land wedged between the Walmart distribution center property and Freedom Life Church of God. Meanwhile, no local services will be tapped — no water or sewer use.

Board members asked about security issues, and Nance said local law enforcement leaders gave their approval of a plan for perimeter fencing with razor-wire deterrents as sufficient to keep the panels safe.

"We are behind a security barrier, and haven't had a problem," Nance said.

Carolina Solar would be using less expensive panels available on the current open market, not the specialized high-end efficiency units that are in development at Semprius, Nance said.

Carolina Solar is under a 15-year contract with Progress Energy to provide solar power to the Progress grid, according to Nance. Carolina Solar may renew the contract, or with more than 30 years of productive life to them, the farm could be sold to another company under contract with Progress.

Stuart Litvin, the director of the Henderson-Vance County Economic  Development Commission, said Carolina Solar's farm is a first for the county, with more solar businesses expected.

"We are expecting there will be additional solar farms coming to the area," Litvin said.

Carolina Solar staff members said criteria for land include flat, clear parcels of 20 acres or more, or south-facing if sloped, within one mile of a power interconnection or substation and with good access to major power lines.
"We are interested in more parcels," Nance said. "There is a strong potential for us to put more solar farms in Vance County."

Fellowship Farms LLC is the current owner of the parcel assessed at $142,000 value by county tax assessors, with a condition of sale contract for Carolina Solar to purchase it.

The parcel is just outside Henderson city limits, in the extra-territorial jurisdiction area know as the ETJ.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.