Garner Cleveland Record

Council approves Garner’s first solar farm

Solar farms are becoming increasingly popular in the Triangle.
Solar farms are becoming increasingly popular in the Triangle. Raleigh News & Observer 2013 file photo

The town council gave final approval for a nearly 50-acre solar farm off Creech Road at its meeting Tuesday night.

The solar farm will be on two tracts of land along Creech Road, cater-cornered to each other.

Before the town council’s decision, representatives of the company, Creech Solar 2, and a few residents spoke up. Some, who live along the street, came just to hear more.

Marvin Woll, a Raleigh resident, said he supported the solar farm because of its potential benefits.

“When you look at what’s going on in this country – record heat in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, wild fires –we need to do whatever we can to move beyond fossil fuels and towards renewable energy,” Woll said. “Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to do the right thing.”

Robert Creech, an older resident, who said he has lived on Creech Road all of his life, said he was neither for nor against the solar farm.

But he wanted to make sure the solar farm wouldn’t extend to the grave sites of his great grandfather and great-great grandfather.

Nancy Whalen of Sanford said she and her sister owned 16 of the acres at the site. She said after six years she was happy to have the land sold.

“We’re very pleased to have this,” Whalen said. “We are pleased that the use will be helpful to the town.”

Much of the concerns of the public and the council in the past few months had been about the visual impacts the solar farm would have, and whether it would affect the property values of the homeowners who lived near the site.

Tom Hester, a state certified appraiser in Wake County, answered that question last week for the Planning Commission and Tuesday for the town council.

“Solar farms don’t have an effect on property values,” Hester said. “This proposed project, which is set further back, and has more buffer requirements, this really will have no effect. This will be a very passive neighbor. Almost an invisible neighbor.”

David Bamfort, long range planner for the town, said the solar farm is about 660 feet from Creech Road at its closest point, so it won’t be visible from the road.

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 site is required to have a 35-foot perimeter buffer adjacent to undeveloped tracts and a 55-foot buffer adjacent to developed land.

The racking system, panels and inverters will be enclosed with a six-foot chain-link fence topped with three strands of barbed wire. The panels will be nine feet tall.

The company will also have to pay a decommissioning fee up front. The fee, town staff hopes, will prevent the company from leaving any equipment behind in case they decide to move.

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. Their life spans tend to be between 30-40 years.

This will be the first solar farm in Garner. Construction is expected to be finished in early 2016, but the representatives for solar farm company say they can’t say for sure.

Creech Solar 2’s proposal to get solar to Garner was more than four months in the making.

For two months back in April, town staff worked on getting the Unified Development Ordinance changed to allow a provision for solar farms. The town didn’t feel comfortable allowing a solar farm in its ETJ, the way the UDO was written.

The change was later approved by the town council and now solar farms have their own classification.

Tuesday night’s vote came along with six minor conditions, which are expected to be addressed, including making sure the solar farm doesn’t encroach the grave site Robert Creech spoke about.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland