Solar assessment requested

Published 11:52 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

At the March 27 meeting of the Charlotte County Planning Commission, no recommendation could be reached regarding proposed zoning amendments in the county.

“The Planning Commission did not reach a decision last night regarding the proposed zoning amendments,” said County Purchaser and Planning Agent Monica Elder. “They requested an assessment to determine the capacity of Charlotte County’s existing transmission lines and associated infrastructure in order to gain a better understanding of the amount of solar development that the existing transmission lines could support.”

Elder added, “We hope to have this assessment by our next regularly scheduled meeting.”

According to Elder, when the Planning Commission met in January, the proposed amendments were finalized and a joint public hearing with the board of supervisors was advertised for March 12.

After the hearing was advertised, Elder noted she was approached by several individuals with concerns, among them solar companies Carolina Solar and SolUnesco, with whom she met to discuss the concerns.

“Because the hearing had already been advertised, we didn’t feel like we could cancel the hearing at that time … Elder said. However, the hearing was canceled due to inclement weather.”

“Before we reschedule the hearing, we can take all of that in review and determine if we are at the point where we want to be or if we feel like we need to make revisions to what we had originally come up with in January,” Elder said.

In light of this, an opportunity to address the issues was provided. Francis Hodsoll, co-owner of SolUnesco, spoke at the meeting regarding solar farms in the county.

“We’ve looked at a project here in Charlotte County… ,” he said during the meeting.

He said the project is still in the very early stages.

SolUnesco is a Virginia- based company that develops utility scale solar farms. The company said the proposed changes to the solar farm ordinance could eliminate the possibility of tens of millions of dollars in revenues for Charlotte firms.

It could also eliminate any future solar farms.

“We propose providing the county with an independent economic study demonstrating how a large solar project could benefit Charlotte County,” said the company.

The study would be conducted by Mangum Economic Consulting, LLC of Richmond.

According to Hodsoll, the company has just started to do a study process to determine how to connect the transmission grid in the county and noted that the size of the project could change.

Previous changes to the amendments included reducing the maximum size for facilities from 500 acres to 250 acres.

Referencing the proposed zoning amendment changes, Hodsoll said, “to be perfectly frank, those changes would probably eliminate our project.” He said the 250-acre restriction would reduce the project to about 30-40 megawatts, and the company is predicting output of well over 100 megawatts with at least 700-800 acres of land.

Additionally, the company would build its own substation.

A letter to the Charlotte County Planning Commission from Red Oak business owner Gene H. Hall, Jr. said he, along with his wife, have operated Red Oak Excavating in the county for more than 32 years.

He said the company was excited about the possibility of solar farms in Charlotte County. “We believe this is a huge opportunity for our community to continue to expand and attract new businesses and residents,” said Hall. “Red Oak Excavating is opposed to the solar ordinance that is being proposed to restrict solar farm acreage to approximately 250 acres.”

Hall said the right to sell a land should be the property owner’s decision. “We do not feel that it is up to the county to restrict this due to it being a solar farm, but up to the landowner as to how they choose to proceed with their own property.”

Additionally, he said if solar farms come to the area, it will provide job opportunities for local contractors.

According to the county’s website, the Planning Commission is scheduled to meet April 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Charlotte County Administration Office.