County takes a closer look at solar farm construction

Published 12:04 am Monday, August 7, 2017


The county is looking at a moratorium on solar projects, a move based on recent concerns about the prospect of 600-acre solar farm in the heart of Terra Ceia.

Beaufort County Board of Commissioners Chairman Frankie Waters is recommending the county “draft a solar farm moratorium ordinance based on the concerns of the Board and for the time needed by the Board to address the stated concerns.”

The recommendation is set to be proposed at tonight’s regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

Last year, the Terra Ceia farmland was leased to Wilkinson Solar, a subsidiary of Chicago-based solar development company Invenergy. However, the property owner recently declined to move forward with the lease, which was inappropriately notarized, according to the owner’s attorney, Mario Perez. Over the past several months, many neighbors and stakeholders in Terra Ceia Christian School, located next to the proposed solar farm, have let their concerns about the solar farm be known to commissioners and have continuously asked the board to instate a moratorium on the project. It has yet to be determined whether Wilkinson will take the case to court in order to proceed with the project, Perez said during an earlier interview.

County Planning Director Seth Laughlin will deliver a presentation about solar ordinances in place in surrounding counties to inform commissioners of options as they reconsider, and perhaps rewrite, the county’s existing ordinance.

Carteret, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Johnston, Hyde, Martin, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell, Washington and Warren counties were contacted: Carteret, Dare and Martin counties do not have ordinances; while Currituck and Hyde counties currently have moratoriums in place.

A draft of a solar ordinance the planning department included in the agenda packet mentions possible restrictions: “no solar farm will be permitted on a parcel of land that is larger than 25 acres; and “no solar farm shall be permitted within one mile of any previously approved solar farm in Beaufort County.”

The draft also calls for Environmental Impact Studies to be performed by the solar farm company, to determine a proposed farm’s potential impacts on the human and animal populations, as well as to the land itself, by storm-water runoff and other disruption of water resources.

To set the ordinance rewrite in motion, Commissioner Ron Buzzeo will ask the board to create a committee to work with staff to study the collected ordinances from other counties and make recommendations to the county’s current ordinance.

The commissioners meeting will take place at the County Administrative Office, located 121 W. Third St. in Washington. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public.