Lee County is entering the new, high-tech, clean energy production realm with the announcement Wednesday of a major capital investment by a solar energy facilities developer, according to officials.
Southern Current, based out of Charleston, will …
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Southern Current, based out of Charleston, will invest $100 million in solar farm development at six rural sites in Lee County during the next five years, County Administrator Alan Watkins said.
Solar panels at each site will produce electrical power from the sun, and, in turn, Southern Current will sell that power to Duke Energy for electrical use in the greater region.
Watkins said the investment will not necessarily directly generate jobs in Lee, but it will create more of a tax base in the form of commercial property taxes collected from Southern Current.
The only jobs created with the solar farms will likely be the work of company maintenance operators at the six sites, he said.
"Long-term, the biggest benefit for the community will be the tax revenue that will be generated from the project," Watkins said.
The land will switch from agricultural use to commercial/industrial use, which is the big benefit for the county, according to Watkins.
"Ag-use land property taxes are generally just a few dollars per acre," Watkins said. "This will be in the many thousands of dollars per acre that they will be paying through a typical fee-in-lieu agreement."
Construction on the solar farms is projected to begin with 12 to 18 months, Watkins said. As part of the agreement between the county and Southern Current, 90 percent of the project investment is to be completed within five years.
When the solar farm development is complete, the project will generate between $250,000 and $300,000 in commercial property taxes for 30 years that will be split between Lee County and Lee County School District, Watkins said.
Watkins said five sites are planned to be about 10 acres each and will produce about two mega-watts each. One larger site is planned to be 200 or more acres and will produce more than 60 mega-watts. The largest site will be on U.S. 15 between Bishopville and the Darlington County line, he said.
Watkins said he has emphasized to the public that research through a North Carolina State University study last year shows there are no health risks or harmful affects associated with solar power production.
Visit Southern Current's website at www.southerncurrentllc.com.
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