Roseboro gives thumbs up to solar farm

By Emily M. Hobbs

June 11, 2014

Tuesday night, the Roseboro Board of Commissioners gave their approval to a conditional use permit that will allow a solar farm off Dunn Road. The solar farm would be located in the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction; it would be one of 15-plus solar farms that have been created in the last five years by Solbridge Energy.

Attorney Matt Cunningham made a presentation to the Roseboro town board during the June 10 meeting.

“I’m an attorney representing Solbridge Energy,” he detailed to the board, which reviewed packets on the proposed project, including maps and further details on the process. During his PowerPoint presentation, Cunningham explained that the photovoltaic solar panels are a low impact, non-invasive method of generating electricity.

“Solbridge has a portfolio of 15 farms in the two mega watt to five mega watt variety,” he said, further describing them as modest-sized solar farms like the one that is planned for Dunn Road.

“Most of these are located in North Carolina, and a lot in this area,” Cunningham said. “The reason for that is because what is good for a farm is good for a solar farm, and if there is anything North Carolina has a lot of, as we can attest to today, is sunlight.”

“The solar arrays are typically about 8 feet tall,” he explained, pointing to a picture in his presentation. The solar arrays also preserve the existing landscape and topography, he added. The Dunn Road project will be set back from the road and the solar array will cover around 24 acres.

“This is the last parcel before you get into the county proper,” he said. The property, which he describes as being just inside the Roseboro ETJ, also already has a power line easement in place which crosses diagonally across the property.

“There will be well over 200 feet between the solar farm and the closest house,” he stressed. The construction process will take a couple of months. In the area there is also a substation. Cunningham said that there will be someone checking in on the solar farm once a week and there will be an evergreen buffer.

“Very little traffic is created and the construction process takes just a couple of months,” he said. “It’s a fairly quick process as far as construction goes.” He said that it will not have a significant traffic impact.

“As far as safety goes, and the character and integrity of the area, I think this plan does a good job of pulling it as far back from the road as possible to give a little bit of open space there,” Cunningham highlighted.

“We are going to have an evergreen buffer to screen the array,” he said. He also added that it will be inaudible and due to the evergreen buffer it will be “virtually invisible”.

The property will also be securely fenced in with warning signs.

“The standard is a 6 foot fence with three strands of barbed wire, and then you put a nice dense buffer in front of it to hide that,” said Cunningham, who added that the array would not have any visual impact.

The town had not had any inquiries or complaints about the location of the solar farm in the town hall before the meeting. The location has had a sign posted and the surrounding property owners were notified about the plans to put in the farm, according to Faye Lewis, Rural Planning Organization planner for Roseboro. She is a certified zoning official through the Institute of Government.

The zoning board for Roseboro had already recommended approval for the new solar farm which is why the CU14 02 conditional use permit was placed before the town board for a vote.

Betty Maxwell, a concerned citizen that had head about the proposed solar farm, asked a few questions about the safety of the solar farm as well as the potential impact on humans.

“The solar farm generates less of an electromagnetic effect at the fence than a can opener,” Cunningham said. “It has an electromagnetic field that is consistent with an ordinary household. That’s right there at the perimeter of it.”

Kent Trowbridge is the managing partner with Solbridge and Cunningham said that he is an experienced solar developer.

“It really does not have an effect on humans,” said Trowbridge.

“Is this a benefit to us?” asked Maxwell.

Trowbridge said that the property will be put into a higher tax bracket, and the “long time landowner” will get a stable lease payment. He said that there will be short term jobs created during the construction phase.

The total size of the property where the solar farm is to be located is approximately 40 acres and it is located on Dunn Road near Lucas Road.

After consideration of tabling the action until the next meeting, board members instead decided to move forward and vote on CU14 02.

“I always try to support the property owner,” said Commissioner Cary Holland, who expressed concerns about rushing into a decision without more research.

“I don’t like restricting it,” said Commissioner Ray Clark Fisher. “I don’t like the idea of telling people what they can do with their land. But I also don’t like the idea if its going to be something detrimental to someone’s health or well being.”

Commissioner Alice Butler made a motion to approve with the set conditions. The board voted and approved CU14 02. Cary Holland was the only one who opposed.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd