USDA Grants $2.1M Loan for a Solar Project in Warren County
With the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Warren County could see more solar farms in its future.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Progress Solar in Bunn last week to announce $55.3 million in new loan guarantees and grants for 22 solar energy projects in North Carolina, including a $2.1 million loan guarantee for a project in Warren County.
The funding is being provided through the USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, which was created by the 2008 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill.
The solar farm in Bunn received a $3.4 million REAP loan guarantee in 2012, and it now produces enough solar energy to power 540 average-sized homes each year.
The USDA also awarded a $3 million loan guarantee to Broadway Solar Center in Columbus County and a $4.9 million loan guarantee for a similar project in Hertford County.
Ken Bowen, economic development commission director in Warren County, said he didn’t know which solar project underway in Warren County would receive the funding.
Though vacant land plots in the county have attracted solar developers, he said the projects could be a costly endeavor for private landowners who are not backed financially by a large company.
“These are long-term commitments,” he said. “Even before you have an agreement with a power company to buy the power, there is a lot that needs to be done.”
Often times, he said, small farm owners will seek out private investors to mitigate the costs.
HelioSage — out of Charlottesville, Virginia — and Strata Solar, based in Chapel Hill, have submitted applications to the state utility commission for permission to construct solar farms in Warren County.
The same firms have also sought zoning permits in Vance and Granville counties.
Unlike the governments in Vance and Warren counties, the Granville Board of Commissioners voted recently to impose a 60-day moratorium on issuing zoning permits for the operation of solar farms in one of the county’s agricultural-residential zoning districts.
While the moratorium is in effect, the staff will review the current ordinances and present proposed changes to the planning board and commissioners.