Holcim Mine.jpg

California-based Pattern Development will build two solar fields on 1,000 acres at the LafargeHolcim quarry north of Crystal River.

A California-based renewable energy company plans to turn 1,000 acres at the LafargeHolcim quarry north of Crystal River into a solar-power facility.

At the height of construction, the $150-million project is expected to employ 190 workers. When it’s completed by the end of 2020, it will generate 150 megawatts of electricity capable of powering about 17,500 local homes, its backers say.

Jenn Ritchey, senior manager of business development at San Francisco-based Pattern Development, said Citrus County will realize economic benefits by way of property taxes and jobs.

Ritchey said Pattern looked in other areas of Florida when considering where to build the project, but found the limestone quarry ideal because it is unencumbered by existing land uses and maximizes the usefulness of the land in an environmentally friendly way.

“We think we found a really good place,” she said.

Pattern is building two solar “farms” on the property, to be called Crystal River Solar 1 and 2.

Land Development Director Joanna Coutu said there have been two conditional-use applications received for the sites, one of which is 510 acres and the other for 514. 

The  Planning and Development Commission will review those applications Aug. 15.

The first facility will have about 250,000 solar panels. Construction is expected to start later this year on one or both farms.

The land-use agreement is for 25 to 35 years.

County Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard said there are more upsides to this project than down.

Solar fields, he said, are good uses for the mining property. The construction jobs, while temporary, are better than nothing.

“Adding to the taxable base of the county and not requiring county services is good,” he said.

Kinnard said one negative is that the supply wire from the solar field that connects to the grid will cross the barge canal. It won’t affect boat traffic, but will be visually unappealing, he said.

Ritchey said the supply wire from the northern solar field will cross the canal, adjacent to the existing Duke transmission line that currently crosses the canal.

“The project tie-line will be adjacent to the existing Duke line,” she said.

Also, only 20% of the project is taxable because the state provides an 80% tax abatement for non-residential renewable energy property, Ritchey said.

Ritchey said she is negotiating now with an existing power company which would buy the solar energy from Pattern and then work with customers interested in obtaining solar energy for their homes or businesses.

The solar panels will not be visible from the road because of vegetation and a screened fence.

The building of solar facilities is growing nationwide and one reason is the competitiveness is driving down costs, said Pattern spokesman Matt Dallas.

The cost of solar panels has dropped 99 percent since 1977 and 80 percent since 2008, according to Pattern, which also has offices in Houston, San Diego, Tokyo and Toronto.

“Not only is it clean power, it makes sense economically,” Dallas said.

Pattern will announce a hiring call later this summer for a variety of jobs ranging from heavy equipment operators and laborers to construction contractors.

Ritchey said a town-hall meeting is planned for July so the public can find out more details about the solar projects. The Chronicle will publish details once the time, date and place are determined.

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Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.

(9) comments

CitrusCo Citizen

Wait, what??? We were told that the Sabal pipelines of fracked methane natural gas, just HAD TO BE installed because it was the end-all solution for "clean" energy (NOT). So all of those poor people, farmers, homeowners, etc. who were forced to accept emininent domain money and forced to sell and forced to move away, did that for NOTHING? Rick Scott banned solar energy for 8 years from The Sunshine State and now that he's gone, we're allowed to have it? This is insane. I'm glad Florida is starting to think about solar energy (since it still has a D- on the solar energy report card) but I'm sad for the people of central and north Florida who lost so much in this chaotic, mess brought down on us by Duke energy and the other utility companies, the fossil fuel fat cats and their buddies, the FL legislators in Tallahassee.

GMEN

Florida, as in government, isn't doing anything about solar energy - private enterprise is putting up this solar installation thanks to Trump's booming economy. If you support solar, write a 'Thank You' note to the POTUS!

Miuke Nelson

Private enterprise is putting this in because they see the future (and it's not coal) and because they can make a profit now that the State is no longer throwing up roadblocks. It has very little to do with Trump.

CitrusCo Citizen

Trump is in bed with the fossil fuel industry. He, like Rick Scott, denies that Global Warming is mostly manmande and causing Climate Change, believes that windmills cause cancer, and that solar energy should be banned in the Sunshine State. If they fail at banning it they will now make it tough for independent solar businesses and have the utility companies take it over and create monopolies and have another excuse to raise our utility bills. I'll take your advice and send a note to Trump but it won't say "Thank you"!

Madhatter

How are the solar panels going to handle a hurricane?

CitrusCo Citizen

Some can be lowered and covered or removed, some are made to be rolled up and some are so well bolted down that they won't budge except maybe in a high CAT rating. I would imagine the rooftop panels are only as safe as the roof itself is!! Good question though and one that I've been researching as I'm sure many of the new solar panel owners are asking. Anyone else know more about this?

TONIAC

We a solar array in our back yard. It made it through the last hurricane with no problems. Very well secured.

CitrusCo Citizen

Toniac, was there any damage to the surface due to flying debris? How did you protect the solar cells? Was your solar array bolted down pretty well and close to the ground?

Ssabmud

I just don't see the Republicans going for this. It's just too clean.

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