Holcim Mine.jpg

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

Editor's Note: This story was updated with additional details about the Crystal River Solar 2 project, including a corrected cost and average of the project.

A roughly 500-acre solar farm is one step closer to getting constructed amongst the limestone mines north of Crystal River.

Members of the Citrus County Planning and Development Commission (PDC) Thursday voted 5-0 to recommend county commissioners approve Pattern Development’s conditional-use request for its Crystal River Solar 2 plant.

This $100-million solar-panel field is one of two the San Fransisco-based company is trying to build on leased land that makes up the LafargeHolcim Crystal River Quarry, which neighbors Duke Energy’s Crystal River Energy Complex.

Solar facility gets thumbs up at open house

Once Pattern’s 35-year lease ends with the quarry, it will decommission its solar complex.

Pattern proposed an original design of Crystal River Solar 2 to the PDC in August, but made changes to its plans since then for approval.

Jenn Ritchey, Pattern’s senior manager of business development, told PDC members changes include: an additional 30 acres of solar panels; a shorter and more direct access road from U.S. 19; and a electric transmission line that runs south to a nearby substation and the grid. 

Construction will start near the end of 2020 on the 74.9-megawat plant and its roughly 250,000 2-by-1-meter solar panels, which can generate power for 15,000 area homes, Pattern spokesman Matt Dallas said Friday.

Dallas said construction, which will create between 100 and 200 jobs, will be completed in 2022.

PDC Second Vice Chair David Bramblett, echoed by his colleagues on the dais, told Ritchey he was happy Pattern decided not to build its cable lines north and across the Withlacoochee River.

“I agree,” PDC Chair Joel Brender said, “there’s some real positive changes.”

$150 million solar facility planned for Crystal River

Joanna Coutu, director of the county’s land development division, said staff is OK moving Pattern’s solar project forward on conditions it meets stormwater requirements and that panel installations don’t impact animal habitats.

Coutu said conditional use would also become void if county commissioners turn down a related land-use-change request. 

Ritchey said Pattern is already obtaining the other necessary permits from state and federal engineering, wildlife and transportation agencies.

Bramblett asked Ritchey if Pattern came to a solution with the neighboring Crystal River Quarries, Inc., which shared concerns about active mining and explosions affecting solar panels.

Ritchey said those concerns are tied to Pattern’s second solar plant to the south of Crystal River Solar 2, and a settlement has been reached with Crystal River Quarries to address those worries.

Also on the PDC’s agenda Thursday: 

Citrus County Commissioner Jeff Kinnard and his wife’s hearing Thursday for a variance was moved to May 21, PDC members approved.

In their application, the Kinnards are seeking the PDC to allow them to build their home in Dixie Shores near Crystal River 22 feet away from Dixie Bay, and not the 50 feet required by the county.

Rob Batsel Jr., an attorney for the Kinnards, told the PDC Thursday he and his staff are preparing a revised application to address staff’s issues.

County staff opposes the variance because it doesn’t comply with the comprehensive growth-management plan. 

Kinnard could also avoid a variance request altogether by redesigning his house and pool, county staff stated in its report.

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.