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Nash County approves 692-acre solar farm

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NASHVILLE — Nash County commissioners on Monday approved a conditional use permit for a 692-acre solar farm between Spring Hope and Middlesex, the 29th and largest solar farm in Nash County.

The request was made by Photos Solar, LLC, which plans to invest $80 million to develop the 80 megawatt photovoltaic solar farm. The power generated will be sold to Duke Energy Progress.

The farm consists of all or portions of eight tracts of land with five owners, county planner Adam Tyson told commissioners. The property, all zoned A-1 agricultural, is on the east side of N.C. 231, the south side of Frazier Road and both sides of portions of Prophecy Road, Old Nash Road and Valley Road.

The Phobos Solar project is almost twice the size of the next largest solar farm, the 360-acre Brantley Solar Farm located directly across Frazier Road and still under construction. Tyson said the current average size of solar farms in Nash County is about 55 acres.

Brett Hanna, a Raleigh attorney representing Phobos Solar, said the project’s expected life was 30 years, possibly more. He and other company representatives said the farm would be quiet, non-obtrusive and generally out of sight through natural screening buffers.

The facility will include fenced areas containing rows of ground-mounted solar panel arrays composed of glass and silicone that slowly tilt throughout the day to track the sun’s movement.

The primary substation for the farm will be accessed off Prophecy Road, but Hanna said the property could also be accessed in nine other places from surrounding public roads.

The property now is mostly wooded or used for farming. It includes one home on Frazier Road and an existing cemetery on the south side of Valley Road.

The county’s Technical Review Committee approved the project in June and the Nash County Planning Board signed off in July.

To gain the approval, Phobos Solar agreed to relocate the arrays, inverter and access road farther away from both the home and cemetery; provide a 30-foot wide access route along an existing farm path to allow owners of property immediately adjacent to the west to maintain access; and to limit noise generated by the equipment to no more than 75 decibels at the exterior property line of the farm.

Engineer Corey Howell of Raleigh said the farm’s equipment would generate no more than 67 decibels, likely no louder than the “ambient sounds in nature” and not much more than the 50 decibels generated by the discussion in the commissioners’ room.

“I don’t think anybody would have a problem with that, then,” Commissioner Wayne Outlaw interjected.

“We did a lot of community outreach for this project,” Hanna said, “getting opinions and feedback. Many of the conditions arose out of these meetings.”

Appraiser Damon Bidencope said the farm will be safe, would not affect surrounding property and will be quiet.

“There will be no substantial noise different from the surrounding area,” he said. “They will become a nice and quiet neighbor.”

The farm will take about eight months to build and, at the end of its life, two months to remove, Howell said.

After the public hearing in which no opposition arose and going through a series of motions affirming the farm’s compatibility with the area and requiring all additional state and county permits to be issued, the commissioners unanimously approved the conditional use request.

Twenty-one of the 29 solar farms approved by the county, including a 27-acre farm in eastern Spring Hope, are operational. Two more are under construction and six have now been approved by the county but not yet ready to be built.

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