Holcim Mine.jpg

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

THE ISSUE:

Solar power farms.

OUR OPINION:

Project will be a benefit to the county.


It was announced in June that a San Francisco-based renewable energy company — Pattern Development — plans to turn 1,000 acres at the LafargeHolcim quarry north of Crystal River into a solar-power facility.

Pattern plans to build two solar “farms” on the property: Crystal River Solar 1 and 2.

Land Development Director Joanna Coutu said there have been two conditional-use applications received for the sites, one for 510 acres and the other for 514. The land-use agreement would be for 25-35 years.

As with almost all such projects, there are some pros and cons.

At the height of construction, the $150-million project is projected to employ

190 workers: from laborers to construction contractors to heavy equipment operators. When it’s completed by the end of 2020, it will generate 150 megawatts of electricity capable of powering about 17,500 local homes, according to Pattern.

And according to County Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard, the pros outweigh the cons on the project. For example, new temporary jobs and the addition to the county’s tax base will be a plus.

Pattern Development chose the Citrus County site because the old limestone quarry is not being used. Jenn Ritchey, senior manager of business development at Pattern, said the new solar power facility will utilize the land in an environmentally friendly manner.

All this sounds great. But there appears to be some skepticism about the project.

Will the farms be an eyesore with the 250,000 solar panels and tie-in supply wires connecting to a grid across the barge canal?

Plus, only 20% of the project is taxable under state law, which provides an 80% tax abatement for nonresidential renewable energy property.

But Ritchey said the project tie-line will be adjacent to the existing Duke Energy line. Plus, she said, the solar panels will not be visible from the road, U.S. 19.

And any addition to our tax base is a positive.

Protestations aside, solar energy has become one of the cleanest and cheapest forms of electricity generation — the cheapest, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis — even beating out wind power. More facilities are being built nationwide, even worldwide.

Ritchey said the public will be able to learn more about the project this month at an open house from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at Plantation on Crystal River, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail.

The project should only be a benefit to Citrus County. It will be in our best interest — economically and environmentally — to embrace this wave of the future for alternative sources of power.

We are the Sunshine State, after all. Let’s put it to work.

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(1) comment

CitrusCo Citizen

So why didn't we go from coal to solar in the first place. Why that stupid 500 mile Sabal fracked methane gas pipeline that sliced up people's farms, ranches, and properties. How many people lost their homes to eminent domain only to have natural gas become obsolete? Why the horrible LNG compressor station in Dunnellon and elsewhere? We need good investigative journalists to get the truth out to the unusupecting public.

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