Town staffers are recommending that the council amend the town’s unified development ordinance and create a special standard for future solar farms as they eventually make their way to Garner.
The planning staff recently received an inquiry about allowing a solar farm operation in its ETJ. The current UDO does not have a separate land use category for solar farm facilities.
It doesn’t fit the “other major utility” category either because solar farms are a different type of utility that can vary in size.
“Solar farms can be a few acres in size or they can be hundreds acres in size,” Long Range Planner David Bamford said. “Therefore they tend to have different impacts such as aesthetics, noise, glare, stormwater and safety.”
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The proposed solar farm would be 6-10 acres.
The separate ordinance would address buffers, screening, landscaping, setbacks of 30 feet, heights on panel structures and termination of use or decommissioning.
The proposal would limit solar panels to 15 feet in height.
North Carolina has become a hotbed for solar farms.
In 2007, Senate adopted Senate Bill 3 “Renewable and Efficiency Portfolio Standard,” which required electric utilities in the state to produce 12.5 percent of their retail energy sales from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Solar farms are used to convert sunlight into electrical power for direct on-site consumption or for interconnection with the power grid system for off-site consumption.
Council member Kathy Behringer said the solar panels will be a benefit to the town, because they tend to go up on properties where there aren’t any other good uses. The roadways would be kept clean because of the invested interest in the success of the project, she said.
“As we look forward to the future, solar panels are going to be something that we’ll have to deal with,” she said. “It’s not going to be something that is a fad that is going to go away. So I think the overarching questions is, are we going to be a part of that. And we have some opportunities within our service area to be a part of that way of producing renewable energy.”
There will be a public hearing at the May 4 town council meeting.