An Arizona company has withdrawn its application to build a solar farm beside a Mount Sinai Road subdivision.
Orange County planner Michael Harvey said Sunlight Partners emailed the office Aug. 19 and asked staff to pull the application. County rules will require the company to wait a year before submitting a new application for the same project, Harvey said.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners was expected to consider the 4-megawatt solar farm at its Monday quarterly public hearing.
The solar farm, planned for 5609 Cascade Drive, generated strong opposition among Falls of New Hope neighbors, who worried it would reduce property values, harm the environment and public health, and increase noise, traffic and stormwater runoff. More than a hundred people showed up to ask the commissioners to deny the company’s request.
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The roughly 20-acre site is in the county’s Rural Buffer, which allows some solar projects.
Property owner Sheila Bishop said company officials told her family they were dedicated to the project “for the long haul.” Bishop said she doesn’t know why company officials changed their minds, she said.
The family had hoped to land the solar farm as a way to make income from its land and provide financial support and hire a caregiver for Bishop’s 88-year-old aunt Virginia Nunn. Bishop said the family is considering other options now for generating future income.
The project also put a spotlight on the animosity that was building for years between the Bishops, who live south of the project site, and their Falls of New Hope neighbors. While the Bishop property is not part of the subdivision, Mike Bishop said many of their neighbors used the meadow for recreation, often without permission. Bishop said he has posted “No Trespassing” signs, but most have been torn down.
Sunlight Partners officials said the company, founded in 2010, has nearly 50 potential North Carolina sites under consideration. Tax credits and state laws that reduce solar costs by more than half are credited with a surge in the state’s solar industry. The state also requires power companies to provide up to 12.5 percent of energy sales through renewable sources by 2021.