Public meeting set for solar project

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, March 23, 2021

A public meeting will be held next month to discuss Stratford Solar Center’s 154-acre solar facility in Whaleyville.

The meeting will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 20 at the Whaleyville Community Center at 132 Robertson St.

Stratford Solar is proposing a 19.5-megawatt solar farm on agriculturally-zoned land at 1733 White Marsh Road, property owned by William and Barbara Hunter. It received a conditional use permit for the project from City Council in August 2018. Construction is expected to begin in June and be operational in December.

A project overview states that it would provide enough local clean energy to power about 3,985 homes each year and provide “low-cost, clean power generation to the city of Suffolk.”

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Lue Ward were two of the three votes against the project, which it approved by a 5-3 vote. Then-Whaleyville Councilman Curtis Milteer also voted no on the conditional use permit.

During the discussion on the project prior to the vote, councilmembers and the public raised concerns about its upkeep and maintenance, as well as lost property value and construction noise.

The project, which according to a public notice on the project would incorporate 44,199 panels and cover 100 acres of the land, would have a maximum facility height of nine feet.

Stratford Solar estimates that the project would create 75 jobs during construction and provide “significant” property tax revenue for the city without using public services such as police, fire or schools. Pine Gate Renewables will be the developer for the project.

Project officials say it would be a “quiet neighbor” that would provide zero-emissions energy, require little maintenance and would be managed by operations professionals who would visit every few months.

As part of the project, Stratford Solar says it will install “significant” natural vegetative buffering around the project, per city regulations and conditions set in the unified development ordinance. The buffering will include a 75-foot setback around the entire project perimeter, be located at least 300 feet from the nearest panel to the nearest residence and have a 15-foot vegetated buffer to screen from public rights-of-way. It states that the maximum noise level it would generate once operational is below 50 decibels from 10 yards away, which it compares to typical conversation volume.

The general lifespan of a solar farm is about 25 to 30 years. At the end of the lifespan, Stratford Solar says it will be decommissioned and the modules and project materials safely removed before restoring the site to its previous condition.

For more information on the project, go to pinegaterenewables.com/stratford-solar or see the application materials in person at the Whaleyville Recreation Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.