NEWBERRY – Some Newberry residents are unhappy about a solar development that will be located near their homes. At the Nov. 27 Newberry City Commission meeting, a presentation by Florida Renewable Partners (FRP), a solar development company operating in Florida, garnered a number of citizen comments. RFP’s representative, Scott Scoville, met with citizens prior to the meeting and addressed the Commission in a presentation designed to respond to citizen concerns.

FRP recently acquired land in Newberry with intent to develop a solar farm. The property is located in southwest Newberry, west of County Road 337 and south of Southwest 30th Avenue. In August, residents in the vicinity of the proposed solar farm transmitted a letter to the City expressing concerns about the development and identifying suggested conditions for solar farm developments, including the proposed FRP project.

FRP plans construction of a Newberry sited solar farm in 2027 after necessary upgrades to the transmission system have been completed by Duke Energy. FRP anticipated submitting an application for site and development plan consideration in 2026.

Concerns voiced about solar farms included that transmission lines may impact pacemakers, pollution from runoff of solar panels, excessive concrete under the panels and other structures would make the land non-permeable and fences that would negatively impact wildlife as well as the proposed size of the vegetative buffer.

Scoville responded to those claims by saying he had not seen any studies showing negative impacts to pacemakers. He also said the only studies he had seen about panels polluting soil had to do with grinding up the panels for recycling and distributing on soil, which they had no intention of doing. He said they would consider planting a vegetative buffer with smaller plantings now so that they would grow into larger plantings by the time the site was operational.

Concrete under the panels was not an issue, Scoville said, because there was a minimal amount of concrete used on the site. He said the panels were on steel poles planted into the ground and the poles would be removed along with the panels when dismantling the site.

Scoville said the planned fencing would be six feet high near the right-of-way, but was “red top” fencing at four-feet high everywhere else, which would allow deer and other animals to jump the fence line. He showed photos of a panther and birds that had re-inhabited a solar array site after construction was completed.

In March 2019, the City Commission approved land development regulations for solar farms in Newberry’s agricultural zoning districts. Changes to the existing solar panel ordinance will be reviewed during the first quarter of 2024. While Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlow said this was an opportunity to consider “tweaking” the existing solar farm ordinance, he cautioned that any changes would not be required of FRP as they were approved under the existing ordinance.

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