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Solar farms: Community Energy and Meade County Solar — Part Two


CHAD HOBBS

Messenger Staff


This week’s article on the Meade County solar projects series will pick up where it left off last week, covering Community Energy’s public meeting.

Besides the environmental impact, one of the big concerns of some residents living within close proximity of these solar projects is what impact these solar farms will have on their property values. Community Energy had a ‘Property Value Impact Study’ conducted to evaluate whether there would be a negative impact on property values in Meade County due to their project.

According to them, the six areas which have the most influence on surrounding property values for a project are: hazardous materials, odor, noise, traffic, stigma and appearance. The study claimed to find there are no hazardous materials or odors associated with solar farms, no instances of audible sounds at the periphery of the solar farms inspected, no significant impact to traffic, no negative stigma against solar farms as a neighboring use and no negative visual impacts due to enhanced setbacks and buffers from neighboring residences. As a result, it concluded that “the proposed solar farm would not likely have a negative impact on local property values.”

Community Energy plans on starting construction in 2022, pending approval of a Construction Certificate. It is anticipated that during the 6-9 months of construction that there will be approximately 150 construction jobs associated with the project. Chris Kellenberg, Regional Development Director for the company, said that many of these jobs will be local hirings. A lot of these jobs will not require a skilled trade, as they will be positions assembling the racking system and panels. There will also be a need for local trades such as electric, surveying, earthmoving, fencing and landscaping. Kellenberg said that anyone in any of these trades interested in possibly working on the project can contact Community Energy. They maintain a list of local vendors and will pass that on to the construction contractor.

Once construction is completed, there will be 2-3 full-time jobs which will be involved with operations and maintenance of the solar farm. One of the main duties of these jobs will be mowing and weed eating, along with preventive maintenance and repairs.

During the meeting, I asked Kellenberg what the anticipated cost for this project would be, and who would ultimately pay that cost — Community Energy, Nucor, Big Rivers or the customers of Meade County RECC — since Community Energy plans to turn over ownership of the farm once it is completed to an undisclosed, at this time, entity. He said he deferred for the moment to disclose the cost or name of the private entity.