Review work starts on solar farm code
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has started work on what could become a review of county solar farm regulations.
After approving two special use permits last month for solar farms on farmland at Alamance Church Road, several commissioners said they thought the county’s code did not have enough details about the construction and decommissioning of solar farms.
Sunlight Partners of Arizona has leased two 30-acre sites for two 5-megawatt solar farms in the eastern Guilford County area. A 5 megawatt operation costs about $20 million.
“Our code was written for residential use and not for solar farms on agricultural land,” said Republican Commissioner Alan Branson. “These operations are not in harmony with agriculture.”
Branson, who voted against the special use permits, listened during a work session as experts from N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association said solar farms are safe and offer clean energy in a state that has a growing clean energy industry.
Several solar energy groups are working together to offer model county ordinances, said Miriam Makyhoun of the Sustainable Energy Association.
“We are behind the 8-ball now,” Branson said. “We give out permits, but there is no ordinance on solar farms.”
In other business:
• Anthony Ward of the regional Sandhills Center mental health agency based in Moore County told commissioners that the agency will continue to offer reduced services unless Guilford County provides an additional $700,000 to boost the county’s contribution to $10.6 million.
• The board approved an $82,908 Bureau of Justice State Criminal Alien Assistance grant on a 7-2 vote with Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point voting against the federal grant because it included $10,460 for three new clothes dryers for the new Detention Center in downtown Greensboro. The grants are aimed at helping jails housing suspected undocumented foreign residents.
Adding the dryers would make clothes washing more efficient, according to the sheriff’s department.
“This says something about planning,” Davis said. “Are we getting ahead of ourselves here in buying dryers that plans said we would not need for many years until there were 1,600 inmates?”
• On a 5-4 vote with Republican commissioners dominating, the board approved $135,000 of a $165,000 funds transfer the Guilford County Board of Education wants for the athletics project at Dudley High School. Although the additional $30,000 was listed as a reserve for unexpected construction problems, Republican Commissioner Jeff Phillips said school officials should not have the money until needed.
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Solar arrays are located in Alamance and Davidson counties. Davidson County has the largest array in the state at 17 megawatts. The $137 million facility opened in 2011. At least five farms have been planned for the eastern Guilford County/Burlington area.