Lingering questions over planned solar farm
by Erik Spencer Hill Staff Reporter
Residents of Fowler Road turned out for the regular meeting of the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night at the Walnut Cove Senior Center to hear more about the solar energy facility that is planned to be built in the area.
Once again, residents voiced their lingering concerns over the project and asked town officials to pause in taking any action on adopting a Solar Farm Text Amendment that would allow solar farms to be built in the Town of Walnut Cove.
The board decided to not take any action on the proposed text amendment on Tuesday night and encouraged residents to meet with the planning board on Sept. 10 to have their questions over the solar energy facility answered.
At the board’s regular meeting in August, a handful of citizens spoke out and the board came to a consensus — they needed more information on the kind of impact solar farms would have on the town before making a decision.
A Nevada-based group that has plans to build a solar farm at 769 Fowler Road, west of Highway 311. Carol Jean Solar, LLC planned to build a 4-megawatt solar energy facility in the area, but unless planning and zoning rules change and a Solar Farm Text Amendment is adopted, the group may have to build its facility elsewhere.
According to Tuesday’s agenda, “The planning board has recommended a text amendment along with solar farm development requirements…If adopted, there will be stringent developmental requirements in place.”
Having recently met with a representative from Carol Jean Solar, Commissioner Sharon Conaway worked to address several questions and concerns at Tuesday night’s meeting. Conaway said that the planned solar energy facility would have minimal impact on the land and there is nothing in the photovoltaic cells that could contaminate the soil. Speaking on behalf of the representative, Conaway said that the panels are mostly made of silicone, copper and glass.
But, ultimately, what actually is in the photovoltaic cells is largely a mystery to the outside world. The materials inside the photovoltaic cell are closely-guarded trade secrets. Giving away the secret chemical makeup of the cells could give competing companies an edge in the burgeoning industry.
Residents who live along Fowler Road were not convinced that the solar energy facility would be harmless. Paula Booz, speaking at the meeting, said that she was still concerned about the solar farm contaminating the water supply in the area.
“We need to consider the whole of the community,” she said. “There are no pros to this facility for this community.”
Jason Shotton, who has been an outspoken critic of the planned facility in recent weeks, said that because the solar farm would be 80 percent tax-deferred under state incentives, the payoff on the project would be low, while the environmental, health and safety risks would be high for those living in the area.
“Bottom line, is it isn’t a good idea for a residential area,” Shotton said. “It’s the wrong place.”
Read the full story in the Aug. 12 edition of The Stokes News
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