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November 21, 2016
Pamlico County Commissioners hold a public hearing on Monday night, November 21 on proposed regulations for solar power farms that may want to set up in the county.
The 10-page long policy (click here to view) calls for solar farm arrays to be set back at least 100 feet from property lines, have a 25-foot landscape buffer and 6-foot high fence and be reviewed by Cherry Point officials for possible interference with military flights. Also, solar farm operators would have to put up a bond to pay to dismantle the arrays when the solar farms are no longer in use.
County Manager Tim Buck says the regulations were drawn up in response to outcry from some residents after some solar companies showed interest in building solar farms in Pamlico County. One opponent in Alliance has reportedly linked the solar arrays to a radiation risk, despite the evidence that radioactive material is not created on solar farms. The county’s policy, as drawn up, focuses instead on aesthetic concerns and neighbors’ financial investments as reasons for the proposed regulations.
Pamlico County Economic Development Director Beth Bucksot says three solar farm projects are being considered for a combined 150 acres of farm land in Grantsboro and Alliance.
As she explains it, farmland is attractive for solar farm operations because it’s already been cleared and would be ready to build upon. Bucksot says the farmlands near Grantsboro and Alliance also have the advantages of being on relatively higher ground than more eastern parts of the county and are closer to the operations of Tideland Energy which would be buying that power. Being closer to the power company would reduce overhead costs in tranferring the solar-generated energy.
Bucksot says some farmers may have concerns about farmland being converted to non-farm use. At the 2012 agricultural census, there were 46,785 acres of farmland in Pamlico County. If the current landowners leased or sold their 150 acres and the three solar farm projects were built, they would occupy less than a third of one percent of farmland in Pamlico County.
If the solar farms were built, the 150 acres would also generate more property tax income for the County. As agricultural land, it is currently taxed at the lowest rate; as a solar farm the tax rate would be higher..
Solar arrays have been showing up in rural Eastern North Carolina in recent years. Some backlash to solar energy has also emerged, as also happened several years ago in Pamlico County when alternative energy companies were scouting sites for wind turbines. At that time, the county drew up a policy on wind power. No wind turbine farms have set up in Pamlico County. The Wind Ordinance is similar to the proposed solar farm policy now up for public comment.
The public hearing takes place at 7p on Monday, November 21at the Pamlico County courthouse building.
Posted Monday November 21, 2016 by Melinda Penkava
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