400-acre solar farm to be considered by Rowan County commissioners

Published 12:10 am Sunday, September 15, 2019

SALISBURY — A company named China Grove Solar proposes to develop a 428-acre solar farm located along Neel Road, Sherills Ford Road and Old Bradshaw Road.

The plans indicate that the project will encompass all developable acres, excluding any environmentally sensitive areas, rights of way, easement areas and areas of “volunteered” setbacks beyond the minimum 50 feet.

The proposal will be presented at the county commissioners meeting Monday. County commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Monday in the Rowan County Administration Building, at 130 W. Innes St. China Grove Solar, LLC, is specifically requesting a conditional use permit to allow for the solar farm on land that is primarily zoned rural agricultural.

The 12 previous solar energy system submittals considered under the conditional use process have ranged in size from 1.3 to 6.9 MW of power output. The Solar Energy Industries Association says one megawatt of electricity in North Carolina is enough to power between 100 and 150 homes.

The solar farm proposed for western Rowan County would be significantly larger — a 65-megawatt, ground-mounted solar energy system on three parcels of land. It could power thousands of homes.

Due to the proposed level of power generation in the request, plans include the construction of an on-site substation near Neel Rd. and interconnection to an existing Duke Energy transmission line that extends east/west through the lower half of the site.

Design plans in commissioners’ agenda packet propose a tracking system where the panels rotate from east to west to increase direct exposure of the sun’s energy but may also incorporate a fixed tilt.

Members of the community have expressed their concerns about the proposal to the Rowan County Planning and Development office. Many people in the community are highly opposed to it, said Shane Stewart, assistant planning director for Rowan County. People who have come into the office and are not excited about it, he said.

Stewart said community members have expressed concerns regarding property values, being opposed to the loss of and the visibility of the panels.

Kathy Webb, who owns property near the site, reached out the Post with her concerns.

“The property is mature forest, not agriculture fields. There was a letter sent about the hearing, which was postmarked Sept. 4 about the meeting, sent out to adjoining landowners. This gave us one week to try to research and prepare facts to rebut the solar company at the meeting,” Kathy Webb said in an email to the Post.

Webb said one week wasn’t enough notice.

“I have just started to gather research and put together a case against this to protect our homes and values,” Webb said. “The board should delay the vote, giving the landowners time to research the impact on stormwater runoff, environmental impact, wildlife, vegetation, economic analysis, property values, deforestation as well as other issues.”

She specifically requested a 90-day delay.

“We need more time, we need them to table it for 90 days to do our research and so that the community can do their due diligence to do research on the environmental impact, the impact on wildlife, vegetation, economic analysis, property values, deforestation, stormwater runoff as well as other issues that are affecting the community and our way of life,” Webb said in a phone interview.

She said neighbors are preparing a petition to present to the county about the solar farm.

“You can’t replace what they are going to tear down,” she said.

In other business:

  • There will be a public hearing for fiscal year 2021 transportation grant applications.
  • There will be a public hearing to consider changes to personnel ordinance and resolution to dissolve personnel commission.
  • The board will consider approval of a Special Non-Residential Intensity Allocation (SNIA) request from Theo Pretoruis to construct a 2.15 acre mini storage facility at 900 N. Chapel St. in Landis.
  • The board will consider approval of Direction for Transportation Management Services.

Items on the consent agenda include:

  • Proclamation for Young Marines Red Ribbon Week 2019;
  • Request Approval of the Local Government Grant Agreement with Chewy;
  • Request for approval of the Company Performance Agreement with Chewy;
  • Approve budget amendment for the Chewy project;
  • Authorizing the county manager to enter into contract with Gilbert Engineering Company for the Chewy sewer project.