The Orange County Commissioners heard Tuesday from a California company that wants to build a solar farm in the White Cross community, six miles west of Carrboro.
White Cross Solar LLC is seeking a permit to build a 5-megawatt solar power facility near the northwestern corner of White Cross Road and Old Greensboro Highway. The company is owned by Cypress Creek Renewables, a solar energy developer and owner established in May 2014.
William and Carol Byron, who own the 35.8-acre parcel, would sell roughly 20 acres to the developers. They plan to continue living in their home, south of the proposed solar farm.
The site is less than a mile from the 6-megawatt White Cross Solar Farm that Strata Solar built in 2013. It would be to the rear and north of the White Cross Recreation Center.
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The solar permit hearing is “quasi-judicial,” meaning the commissioners can consider only sworn testimony and factual evidence.
The Planning Board could review the project at its July 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the commissioners by Sept. 1. The solar facility, if approved, could be generating electricity for Duke Energy Progress by the end of 2016, company officials said.
County staff and White Cross Solar officials held two neighborhood meetings about the project this spring.
The solar array would cover nearly 12 acres of the site and be surrounded by a minimum 50-foot buffer of trees and shrubs. A typical array is mounted on 2- to 3-foot poles, is 7 to 9 feet tall and about 63 feet long, county planner Patrick Mallett said. The site would be enclosed with an 8-foot-tall, chain-link fence, accessible via a gated driveway off White Cross Road.
Crews could drop by at least once a week to maintain the solar facility and cut the grass, officials said.
Negotiations with a neighbor have produced a revised plan showing a wider, 65-foot landscaping buffer on the site’s northern border, said project engineer George Retschle, of Ballentine Associates. Roughly 30 feet of that buffer would be existing plants, he said.
Neighbors at Tuesday’s meeting signed up but did not speak about the company’s plan.
“Our belief is that our neighbors are comfortable with what we’re proposing,” White Cross Solar attorney Beth Trahos said.
Real estate appraiser Tom Hester testified that his review of about 30 similarly situated solar farms built since 2011 had not affected nearby property values or sale prices.
The Planning Board will take public comments about the White Cross solar farm plan through July 1 and pass them on to the Orange County Board of Commissioners in September. The commissioners will not accept additional comments this fall.
Review the solar plan, starting on page 510, at nando.com/1bd. Send comments to county Planning Supervisor Michael Harvey at email@example.com or by mail to: 131 W. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough, NC 27278.