A solar farm company wants to build a near 48-acre solar farm along Creech Road, but it will have to wait until a couple of issues raised by town staff are corrected.
Creech Solar 2 requested a continuance at Monday night’s Planning Commission meeting to fix the issues. Those issues included clarification on a few items, questions about the life expectancy of the panels, the non-reflective quality, landscaping, fire protection and a decommissioning plan.
“The applicant is working on those and that is why they asked for a continuance,” Senior Planner Jenny Saldi said.
The solar farm will be located on the west side of Creech Road about half a mile past Creech Road Elementary off West Garner Road. The proposed site of the solar farm is currently on undeveloped land.
The racking system and panels will be 9 to 10 feet high. The inverters, which convert direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) will be 9-11 feet high. The wood power poles carrying the power out to Creech Road along the driveway will be 20-25 feet high.
The racking system, panels and inverters will be enclosed with a six-foot chain-link fence topped with three strands of barbed wire.
Solar farms are becoming increasingly popular in the Triangle. Solar panels absorb light and convert it to solar electricity. The electricity is supplied to residential and commercial buildings. If approved, the proposed solar farm would be the first in Garner.
Efforts to reach officials with Solar Farm 2 were unsuccessful.
Neighbors have questions
It is surrounded by single family homes and a multi-family development. Four residents attended the meeting to hear about the project and give their concerns.
Dan and Faye Parker, who live on Dan Dixon Drive, said the solar farm is expected to come close to the back of their property.
Dan Parker said he doesn’t quite have an opinion yet on whether he supports the solar farm until he hears more from the company. But he has a few concerns that he hopes will be addressed.
“I don’t want to look out my back yard and see mirrors,” Parker said. “They are addressing that with buffer zones...And that’s my main issue.”
Shannon Huntley and his wife Elaine Eason Huntley live on Creech Road, adjacent to the proposed site, they said.
“Right now we are very optimistic,” Elaine Eason Huntley said. “Just sitting there looking at the thought, thinking ‘this could be a plan we could live with. This sounds great.’ But we do need to know for certain about the buffers, about the traffic, about the flow of the land and everything that is going on.”
For two months, town staff worked on getting the Unified Development Ordinance changed to allow a provision for solar farms. Planning Director Brad Bass said the town did not feel comfortable allowing a solar farm in the town, the way the previous UDO was written.
The town council approved the change at its last town council meeting. Solar farms now have their own classification and will be permitted in R-40, SB, I-1, and I-2 zoning classifications.
Commission member Neel Surti asked the representative and lawyer for the company, Beth Trahos, whether the language and text of the UDO in Garner was reasonable compared to other towns where the company had built solar farms.
“It is unusual to have the surety reviewed on an annual basis,” Trahos said. “So that is something we have never seen before. But we recognize that it is in your ordinance and we would be bound by that.”
The solar farm company is expected to request a special use permit and bring it back to the planning commission at an August meeting.
“We just realized that the ordinance was approved on Tuesday (July 7) and we were running back and forth exchanging information,” Trahos said, “and we thought, ‘gosh we’re going too fast. We need to slow down and make sure that we have information that is clear and appropriate and the staff has time to get comfortable with it.’”