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Richland County Solar Project

The Richland County Zoning & Land Information Committee met on Monday, November 5th to hear a petition from Richland County Solar Project, LLC for a conditional use permit for a Solar Energy Facility in Buena Vista Township.

Drew Gibbons, Development Director for Tradewind Energy, Inc. gave a power-point presentation which included an introduction of the company which is headquartered in Lenexa, Kansas, and is part of Enel Green Power based in Rome, Italy. The presentation also included solar background information and how it works, an overview of the project, economic impact for the county, a preliminary site plan and general information.

The development of the Richland County Solar Project began in 2016. It is a 50 megawatt plan, which is equivalent to the power of 13,400 homes. The plan is for 803 acres in Buena Vista Township, north of Highway 14, with a projected footprint of 500 acres. It is hoped to start commercial operations as early as 2021.

This site has been chosen because it is adjacent to the Lone Rock Substation. It is also flat and open and requires minimal site preparation.

Proposed conditions of approval for the Richland County Conditional Use Permit include: the permit to remain valid for three years after issuance before construction is required to begin. The project company shall supplement the vegetative barrier between the project site and existing residences. Prior to the issuance of a Zoning Permit or equivalent approval for the construction of the project, the project company shall: Provide the county a detailed site plan with the final locations and height of components of the solar energy system including actual lot size dimensions verified through a survey of the project site and submit to Richland County, documentation of any and all required access or driveway permits for access to the project.

The proposed economic impact of the facility with an expected capital investment of $61 million and an estimated tax assessed value of $32,145,000 in the first year would mean a tax revenue for Richland County of $254,000; $22,000 to Beuna Vista Township; $272,000 to the River Valley School District; and $31,000 to the Madision Area Technical College for a total of $579,000.

Following the presentation the floor was open. John Rosenburg, a resident along the proposed area raised concerns of state statutes to protect agricultural soils and it not being reasonable to alternate locations. He and others also raised concerns of glare from the panels. Rosenburg was also concerned that the Glint and Glare analysis was not done on site.

Emily Truebner, Permitting Director for Tradewind Energy, noted that the Glint and Glare analysis met FAA requirements. Melissa Vancrum, Outside Counsel-Permitting for Tradewind Energy noted that the company had complied with state statutes.

Norbert Pulvermacher raised a concern about the galvanized piping which is installed into the ground to support the system causing pollution of ground water.

It was noted that the plan includes a decommissioning of the project at the end of its life span in 35 years which calls for cleaning the soil if there is any contamination and returning it to green space.

Many residents also were upset with the lack of communication, saying that they did not know of meetings with the Township until after the fact. Some even stated that they didn't even know of the project until just recently.

Speaking in favor of the project, Mark Gill of western Richland County stated, we are importing our resources and we now have a chance to create our own.

The Richland County Zoning & Land Information Committee voted to table a decision on granting the conditional use permit to Richland County Solar Project, LLC until November 19th so they could get more input and study the project more.