In light of recent negativity toward utility-scale solar projections, we feel it's a good idea to respond with fact and figures and not speculation. First of all, solar or alternative energy is not a new concept; it has been around for many years and is a very reliable source for generating electricity in the Southeastern United States. These projects have zero emissions, no discharge or bi-products. It's an unlimited resource, a simple, reliable and sustainable source of energy. Investments in solar reduce the energy's market price volatility and benefits local customers. The speculation that this electricity will be sold in North Carolina is just not true. The electricity produced gets put back onto the grid for customers in South Carolina.
No public services will be needed, and the project fits into the county's comprehensive plan. With the required installation of trees and other existing natural vegetation, this will obscure the solar farm from view to most of the surrounding areas and contrary to popular beliefs, solar farms have a net zero effect on surrounding land, meaning they are in harmony and do not increase nor decrease the property values nor drive up the cost to other farmers. Furthermore, at the end of the life of the solar panels, roughly 30 years, the property converts back to agricultural land.
Seeing the increase in project activity in 2015, the local planning commission recommended to county council the need for solar as a permitted use in certain zoning areas; this included AG II. Since then, more than 20 solar projects have been announced by the South Carolina Department of Commerce along with the governor's office in excess of $800 million in capital investment. Our neighboring counties of Orangeburg, Jasper, Richland and Lexington, to name a few, have jumped at the idea to not only increase tax revenue, but to also reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. Why shouldn't we do the same?
So what will a solar farm provide for the local economy? First you have the 30-year lease contract with the local farmer and/or land owner, 150-plus construction jobs for roughly 12 months that would potentially be filled by local contractors, not to mention the local construction supplies that will be needed and purchased.
From this alone the local economy, including restaurants and hotels, would benefit tremendously. Not to mention the significant increase in tax revenue, which could potentially free up other areas of funding in order to provide more public services to the residents of Clarendon County. This is a win-win situation for all parties involved.
The main overarching goal of the Clarendon County Development Board is to increase the tax revenue for Clarendon County and provide a better quality of life for residents, and this project will get us one step closer.
Chairman, Clarendon County Development Board