Pender County Turns Down Permit Request For 2,360-acre Solar Farm

By Johanna F. Still, posted Sep 21, 2022
Coastal Pine Solar LLC proposed to construct a 2,360-acre solar farm in western Pender County. (Photo courtesy of Pender County)
The Pender County Board of Commissioners this week unanimously declined a special use permit request for a utility-scale solar farm proposed on the western end of the county.

The applicant, a subsidiary of California-based Birch Creek Development, proposed to build a 200-megawatt solar farm spanning 2,360 acres. Through a proposed power purchase agreement with Duke Energy Carolinas, the operation would have been capable of powering 50,000 homes, the developer estimated. 

Commissioners grilled company representatives throughout Coastal Pine Solar LLC’s presentation Monday in the quasi-judicial county process, which included the expertise of several consultants. 

The subsidiary had plans to purchase 2,360 acres on 6,587 acres of property owned by Evergreen Timber Co NC LLC, which maintains the land as a timberland investment. The land in question and nearly all surrounding properties are zoned rural agricultural. 

Coastal Pine Solar LLC Attorney Thomas Terrell said that changes in state law prompted the need for larger solar projects, as operators must participate in a competitive process to provide renewable energy to Duke Energy’s grid. “This is a large project. This sometimes is the elephant in a room,” Terrell said. “And people say, 'Why is it so large?' And the answer is: Duke Energy.” 

Terrell told the board that solar farms in North Carolina have been shown to generate more taxes than agriculture, despite the ad valorem tax abatement granted to these operations. The proposed operation would not draw on county services, he said. 

The panels have a 25-year warranty and are expected to last up to 40 years, Terrell said. County staff had proposed requiring a decommissioning plan prior to approving the project. 

North Carolina has about 800 solar farms, Terrell said, with over 700 having been approved via the special use permit (SUP) process. 

Multiple neighbors spoke against the proposal, critiquing the lack of jobs it would create, among other complaints. “From an agricultural standpoint, we’re not allowed to clear land to raise crops,” farmer and neighbor Charles Rooks said. "I question why we should be able to clear land and take it out of timber production to build and put a solar farm on it."

Commissioner Jackie Newton said she was concerned that clearcutting large swaths of land would further exacerbate the area’s flooding and runoff issues. 

“I see this as light industry,” she said. “It has no business in a rural agricultural area.”
Ico insights


Mikeharrington carolinaretreats 2

Fall Vacation Rentals and Rising Cost of Real Estate

Mike Harrington - Carolina Retreats
Brookeskipper saltair headshot2

Improving Indoor Air Quality Requires a Systematic Approach

Brooke Skipper - Salt Air

A Simple Approach To Difficult Conversations

Dane Scalise - GriffinEstep Benefit Group

Trending News

Local Government Commission Does Not Approve Project Grace 

Johanna F. Still - Sep 22, 2022

State Legislature Candidates Share Views With Business Leaders

Cece Nunn - Sep 22, 2022

Application Denied: After LGC Setback, County Will Still Pursue Civic Project

Johanna F. Still - Sep 23, 2022

County Commission Candidates Participate In Power Breakfast Forum

Johanna F. Still - Sep 22, 2022

Work On Wilmington Seeks Nonprofit Projects To Complete

Staff Reports - Sep 23, 2022

In The Current Issue

MADE Winners: Arts Category

Winners in the Arts Category are Anchor Hardwoods, Savage Surfboards and The Wall Printer....

Housing Demand Still High, Pricing Tricky

It's not the end of the world, says one top-producing Realtor....

MADE Winner: Exporter Category

The Exporter Category winner doesn't just hammer its products home....

Book On Business

The 2022 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!



Trying to Grow a Business?
2020 Health Care Heroes
2020 WilmingtonBiz 100