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Solar farm headed to Jasper

A solar farm is coming to Jasper County.

A New York-based energy development company has been working with state and county officials on turning an 80-acre site into a cluster of solar panels that sell power to utilities.

“We’re getting a lot of support from the county and community and local utility. We’re hoping to make a success of it, but it’s still a work in progress,” said Bill Moore, one of the founders of Hudson Energy Development on Friday.

He said they are planning some half-dozen solar projects around South Carolina, but the Jasper County solar farm is the furthest along.

“We’re working mostly on what you’d call utility scale solar, as distinct from rooftop solar, so we build larger projects that can reach a lower cost of energy.”

Moore said part of the task is to “convince the local community that we can be good neighbors” and to work with local utilities.

“We’re doing both things at once, and we’ve made a lot of progress on our project in Jasper County.”

State environmental regulators received correspondence this month listing Adger Solar, an affiliate of Hudson, as the applicant for a coastal zone approval of a project called Ridgeland Solar Farm. The proposed 80-acre site is described as east of the end of Captain John Graham Road in Ridgeland in the Grahamville area. The start date of the work is listed as mid-June.

Locally, there have been murmurs of concern, even as a solar farm one state north drew outright distrust.

In December the Woodland Town Council in North Carolina rejected a rezoning to accommodate a solar farm.

Residents had reportedly objected to adding a new solar farm to an area that had others already. Some had worried the panels would hurt property values, deprive area vegetation of sunshine, and harm the job market.

Ashley Edwards, community outreach manager for SmartPower/www.SolarizeSC.com pointed to a list of advantages of having a solar farm in the neighborhood.

“Solar farms supply clean energy to the power grid and can make use of land that would otherwise be ignored,” he said Friday.

Among the advantages of a solar farm: economies of scale and the ability to leave residential aesthetics untouched.

“Many times solar farms allow community members to access solar energy for their residence without having to purchase and install their own system. Shared solar is often a great solution for renters and those on a fixed income and is very successful in other parts of the country.”

Edwards also pointed to the jobs that accompany solar farms. The topic of employment is a vexing one for rural Jasper County, where residents have a notoriously long work commute, often across the Georgia line into Chatham County or into neighboring Beaufort County.

“Building the farms provides jobs, purchasing the equipment and labor generates revenue for local economies and the power itself protects natural resources ultimately making for healthier communities,” he said.

When asked about the Adger Solar proposal for Ridgeland, Jasper County administrator Andrew Fulghum was barred from confirming or denying the presence of the project, due to economic development restrictions.

But the county provided a copy of the inducement resolution Jasper County officials approved in December for “Project Gatherer,” which references a $100 million investment.

Last Thursday Fulghum said the officials had not yet adopted any other ordinances or approved any other agreements for the project.
In December the

Jasper County Sun Times reported that two locations were involved with Project Gatherer, and that one was slated for the county’s Pocotaligo Township. Councilman Henry Etheridge had said at the time that residents of the township would have the opportunity to bring up concerns about the addition of the future business.

County leaders had approved a tax cut for the prospective business, a flat tax fee for 30 years based on the total value of the ad valorem tax reduced from 10 percent to 6 percent.

The town of Ridgeland is set to hold a public hearing regarding the solar farm during its regular meeting at 6 p.m., March 3.

 

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