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.