Solar farm proposed for Rural Hall-Germanton Road
A second solar farm project is being proposed for Forsyth County, this one off Rural Hall-Germanton Road by a Florida company.
Pine Gate Holdings LLC, of Jacksonville, Fla., filed a request July 29 with the N.C. Utilities Commission for permission to build a 5-megawatt plant at 2061 N.C. 65 East. The plant would be known as Germantown Solar.
The commission is required to approve a certificate of public convenience and necessity before the project can begin. Pine Gate said it would enter into a 30-year land lease with property owner J.D. Goldston. It said the cost of the project would be $13 million.
The solar farm is projected to become operational in December 2015. The developer said it plans to sell the energy generated to Duke Energy.
The impetus for building solar farms in North Carolina comes from the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, which requires public utilities to have the equivalent of 6 percent of their retail sales come from renewable energy and energy-efficient sources by 2015. That's up from 3 percent now. That requirement jumps to 10 percent in 2018 and 12.5 percent in 2021.
James Luster, managing partner of Pine Gate, said Thursday the proposed solar farm represents its first entrance into North Carolina.
He said that although the renewable energy requirement was an attraction to placing a solar farm in the state, “we study potential projects on a case-by-case basis and go with the most appropriate development placement we can find.”
In June, the City-County Planning Board approved a 5-megawatt solar farm proposed by Strata Solar for a 46.5-acre site in the Hobby Park area. The site is on the south side of Clemmonsville Road, west of Ebert Road.
Paul Norby, director of the City-County Planning Department, said the planning board’s was the only public board action required since solar farms are allowed in the zoning district covering the Hobby Park area.
On July 16, the utilities commission’s public staff recommended approval of the certificate application. Louis Iannone, representing Strata, said the solar farm is projected to generate $20,000 annually in property taxes to Forsyth during the expected 20-year life of the facility.
In February, Forsyth commissioners approved regulations for solar farms, including providing options for operators to comply with screening requirements.
That amendment to the Unified Development Ordinances defines solar farms, still treating them as utilities, but with additional screening requirements and a requirement that unused components be removed within 12 months.
Although the planning board recommended a screen of evergreens at least 6 feet tall in staggered rows along public rights of way and residential property, commissioners approved of solar farms having the option of using undisturbed areas of mature trees with overlapping drip lines or a timber management operation as a buffer. Any gaps in the tree canopy would be supplemented with evergreens.
Iannone said Strata would keep a 40-foot natural tree buffer around the periphery of the project. He said the land would be restored to a natural state when the facility has exhausted its usefulness.
Luster said his group is in the early stages of zoning and engineering for the Germantown Solar project.
“We will comply with whatever we’re asked to do by the county,” Luster said.