PENDER COUNTY — Three years after an application to Pender County was first submitted, Asheville-based Willard Solar, LLC has submitted a second application for a special use permit to build a 5-megawatt solar farm in the unincorporated area of Willard.
Willard Solar leases the land from Kennedy Brothers Property, according to a special use permit received by the county on March 1 for an “Other Electric Power Generation” facility. Approximately 30 acres on the 60-acre lot is designated for the solar farm; the land is classified as a rural agriculture district on the permit.
Landowner Frank Kennedy said the application process started about three years ago, but he and Willard Solar have been waiting for Duke Energy to install power poles on-site so the farm can be connected to a nearby substation on the electric grid.
Kennedy said the proposal was accepted by the Pender County Planning Board three years ago. A public hearing is set for April 15 for final approval on the project.
“From what I understand the power companies don’t like solar grids. But the government is making them use them,” Kennedy said.
He also said solar energy represents a more profitable opportunity than other land uses.
According to a project narrative submitted along with the permit, the 5 megawatts of power generated will be sold to Duke Energy Progress for use by consumers to replace energy produced from non-renewable sources. Construction of the solar facility is expected to take approximately 12 to 16 weeks, which includes the installation of solar panels, inverters, transformers, wires, conductor cables, and a 6-foot high perimeter fence.
In August, Pender County approved a special use permit request from Crooked Run Solar LLC to use 1,046 acres of land
The move came two months after the county approved its Pender 2.0 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, outlining the future land uses for different zoning districts.
According to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance, solar farms and other electric power generation uses are allowed in the rural agricultural districts if a special use permit is granted.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Markdarrough@localvoicemedia.com