Planning Board approves solar array at community college

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

By David Purtell

Salisbury’s Planning Board gave its approval to a contested solar array planned for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Tuesday.

The college plans to build a one-megawatt solar array, which is being funded by a private donor, on 4.5 acres of land along Old Concord Road. The solar array will provide approximately 35-40 percent of the college’s energy needs.  The land is on the other side of Old Concord Road from a subdivision on Stone Ridge Drive.

The solar array would be just south of a drive that leads into RCCC’s campus. In all, the college is requesting the city rezone about 9.5 acres from residential to institutional campus. To allow for the solar array, the land needs to be rezoned.

City Council should take up the request May 19.

After a public hearing in March, the Planning Board sent the request to a committee for further review and to get answers to questions raised by opponents of the solar array who spoke at the hearing. People who live in the subdivision on Stone Ridge Dr., and another one to the north, said they didn’t want the array built due to health concerns and the simple fact they didn’t want to have to look at the panels from their homes.

Based on the design plans for the site, the array should not be clearly visible from Old Concord Road — it will be set back 250 feet from the street and a buffer zone, trees and shrubs, will provide “visual separation” as city planners refer to it.

The board did set a condition that the site have more buffering on its south side — adjacent to a residential lot — than originally planned.

The college’s request comes in the form of a Conditional District Overlay, which includes a master plan for the site.

The panels will face south, be 10-feet tall, and are expected to last 30 to 35 years.

The committee, a group of Planning Board members, studying the solar array found that it’s unlikely it will have any affect on nearby residential property values based on an analysis by an appraisal firm.

In March, people also expressed concerns the solar panels could contain heavy metals, which are known to cause cancer. But the type of panels, which use monocrystalline photovoltaic cells, planned for the site do not contain any heavy metals. The cells are protected by glass and aluminum casing.

Finally, some nearby residents simply don’t want to see the land rezoned — which would allow future development of the college closer to their home.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.