The Tusculum Planning Commission reviewed a preliminary site plan for an 80-acre solar farm off Ball Road on Tuesday evening and interviewed a representative of the Silicon Ranch project owner.
Commission members raised their concerns with Emma Tillitski, a senior project development associate with the Nashville-based company.
The Planning Commission must approve a site plan so that Silicon Ranch can begin work on the property. The company finalized the purchase of the land in March and expects the solar farm to be operational by December.
Tillitski said questions posed by members of the Planning Commission on Tuesday will be answered in time for the commission’s next meeting on May 10, when company officials seek formal approval of the site plan.
On February 28, the Tusculum Council of Mayor and Commissioners approved by a 2-to-1 vote a Silicon Ranch rezoning application to make the M-1 industrial property uniformly zoned.
Commissioner Mike Burns, who is also vice-chairman of the Planning Commission, voted against the rezoning application. Teresa McCrary, Secretary of the Planning Commission, is asking for more information about the project and also for assurances from Silicon Ranch that it will restore the land to its previous state after the solar farm ceases operations.
The Tusculum Solar Farm is one of four planned for Greene County by Silicon Ranch. In addition to the Tusculum property, the company has also completed the purchase of a 141-acre parcel on Liberty Hill South Road and a 55-acre property off Reed Road, both in unincorporated sections. of Greene County.
The Tusculum solar farm would operate on land bordered by Ball Road, Afton Road and US 11E. Company officials said the solar panels would be surrounded by fencing and the property would be lined with plant pads.
Electricity produced by the solar farm would be sold to Greeneville Light & Power System and fed into the utility’s electrical grid. The Tusculum location and other planned solar farm sites are all near utility substations, Brown said.
A total of 180 solar panels housing 14,350 solar panel modules will be arranged in four separate rows on the property, which will also include two electrical transformers, two chain-link perimeter access gates and two 20-inch driveway security gates. feet. A driveway intended for use by Greeneville Light & Power System will have an entrance on US 11E, while a service road will have an entrance on Ball Road.
The site would include 3,350 feet of gravel access road. Approximately 36 acres will be fenced, along with the surrounding vegetative buffer. The Project’s “disturbance area” is just under 50 acres.
A final site plan including the envisioned landscaping was not complete, Tillitski said.
“We are working on the project with Greeneville Light & Power,” she said.
Silicon Ranch’s purchase of the 80.25-acre property from Wayne Jeffers was officially finalized on March 8. The purchase price is $1.3 million, according to a warranty deed filed with the Greene County Deed Registry Office.
Preparatory work has begun. Some trees have been cleared from certain sections of the property, Tillitski said.
The company has been in contact with the owners of land adjacent to the planned solar farm.
“Some people have been active and interested in the project,” Tillitski said.
A petition signed by more than 50 property owners opposing the rezoning application was presented to the Mayor’s Council and Commissioners ahead of the February 28 vote approving the rezoning.
Developers are trying to “maintain the integrity” of the ridge line surrounding the property, Tillitski said.
“We have tried to prevent the clearing of trees as much as possible,” she said.
The solar panels are designed to present a low profile to surrounding neighbors, Tillitski said.
McCrary is concerned about the acceptability of land use for a solar farm project.
“We have to make sure it’s legal and make sure we’re not responsible,” she said.
McCrary asked about the noise level at the solar farm. She mentioned a controversial Bitcoin mine in Limestone in Washington County that led to numerous noise complaints and lawsuits against owners to cease operations, and a Silicon Ranch solar farm in Jonesborough that began operations in January. .
Tillitski replied that solar farm technology has nothing to do with a bitcoin mine. Tillitski said she would look into any issues related to what McCrary called the “energy conversion” process at the Jonesborough Solar Farm site.
Tillitski said that once the construction phase of the Tusculum solar farm is complete, noise from power generation is barely audible on site.
Rick Fancher, who lives next door to the solar farm, said he was concerned about the location of two transformers that will be on the Tusculum property, as shown in the proposed site plan, and “the glare” from solar panels as they move during the day to convert sunlight into electricity.
The modules will be arranged to minimize glare, Tillitski said. She will also consider a request to place additional hedges along the property line.
McCrary referenced a bill pending in the state General Assembly that would direct the Tennessee Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations to conduct a study “of the overall effect of solar power development in large scale in this state”.
“There’s so much we don’t know and so many issues that haven’t been looked into,” McCrary said.
To ensure that Silicon Ranch returns the land to its undeveloped state after the solar farm’s operational life ends, McCrary asked about the possibility of issuing a “decommissioning bond” to ensure that the city is not responsible for the works.
“We don’t make any income unless we generate electricity” so the property isn’t allowed to fall into disrepair, Tillitski said after the meeting.
“It’s a field that we consider an asset,” she says.
Tillitski earlier told the Planning Commission that Silicon Ranch hopes to follow its previously announced timeline for the project. She will seek answers to questions posed on Tuesday ahead of the Planning Commission’s consideration of site plan approval at its May 10 meeting.
“I should be frank. We had to delay construction if the site plan was not approved in May. It would affect our relationship with Greeneville Light & Power,” she said.