A planned 40-acre solar farm would fit well with its surroundings and should be approved, the Lincoln County Planning Board unanimously recommended Monday night.
HelioSage Energy, a Virginia-based solar energy developer, is proposing to build and operate the farm east of the N.C. 16 Bypass near unincorporated Lowesville in eastern Lincoln County.
With the board’s 7-0 recommendation, the project will now go for a permit before the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners at an upcoming meeting.
The Charlottesville company has a lease option with landowners Gary and Janet Duckworth for the farm, which would be called Freemont Solar Center. The site is south of the Shoppes at Waterside Crossing retail center.
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Land nearest the project is used for farming only, Kyle West, HelioSage director of project development, said in the company’s application for a permit. Freemont Solar Center, he said, would generate no significant noise, traffic, emissions or glare.
“The passive nature of this use fits well with this rural, agricultural and low-density residential area,” West said.
In January, West said the multimillion-dollar project would produce enough electricity for about 1,000 U.S. homes.
The farm would be shielded from view by existing vegetation, he said. “If there is any line of sight from Highway 16 or elsewhere, HelioSage will add additional vegetative screening to block the view,” West said.
The Planning Board said it wants HelioSage Energy to keep the Avenel Lane location, where the project will be constructed, in as good as or better shape than before construction.
The board also wants the company to post a minimum $25,000 security deposit in the form of a bond or letter of credit.
HelioSage Energy has developed solar energy projects in various states. In 2011, the company was the winning bidder for Connecticut’s largest solar project. The Somers Solar Center opened in November 2013 as the largest solar facility in New England.
In September, HelioSage Energy announced the sale of a 40-megawatt solar project it helped develop in Eastern North Carolina to Duke Energy.
When commissioned, the project in Wilson County will be one of the largest solar facilities east of the Mississippi, HelioSage said. The facility is expected to generate about 82 million kilowatt-hours annually – enough energy to power 6,800 average homes for a year.
In December 2013, strong public opposition prompted Lincoln County commissioners to vote against plans by Strata Solar, the state’s largest solar company, for a 36-acre solar farm on Webbs Road at Lake Norman. The landowners have appealed.