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Commission recommends solar project near airport

The Suffolk Planning Commission has given its unanimous recommendation for a conditional use permit for Borrego Solar Systems to build a three-megawatt solar farm on 62 acres of property off of Hosier Road east of the Suffolk Executive Airport.

The proposed solar farm would use about 16 acres of the property at 1581 Hosier Road owned by Patrick Fancy of Fancy Corp. and would have ground-mounted solar arrays with a maximum height of 15 feet, with a seven-foot chain-link fence and an existing 15-foot vegetative buffer. Inverter stations will be placed on posts throughout the site, and the proposed facility will require that it be at least 50 feet from all property lines. The unmanned site would have two entry and exit points.

In a letter that accompanies the application, Borrego said it had done due diligence on the property and determined it to be “potentially viable,” with its “proximity to an existing substation, nature of existing land cover type and topography, aquatic resources and access from rights-of-way are (important) considerations in Borrego’s assessment.”

Jessie Robinson, Borrego’s project developer, noted that the company has developed more than 750 megawatts of solar energy over the course of its 40 years in operation. It held a virtual meeting for neighbors of the proposed solar farm March 15 and had one person attend.

“There’s a lot that goes into choosing a site for solar, and we chose this one primarily because of its location,” Robinson said during an April 20 public hearing.

She estimated that the project would create 30 to 40 temporary construction jobs and one to three long-term local jobs for operations and maintenance.

Commissioner Mills Staylor asked whether any glare that would come from the solar farm would have an impact on the airport. City planner Kevin Wyne said that while it did not check to determine whether this project would impact it, it likely would not impact it due to the location of the airport runway in relation to the property.

Staylor said that unlike a proposed three-megawatt unmanned solar farm in the southeast quadrant of the intersection between Great Fork Road and Lucy Cross Road in Whaleyville — discussed earlier in the meeting during a public hearing — the location for the Borrego solar farm off of Hosier Road was better.

“Location, location, location when you’re dealing with real estate is critical in anything,” Staylor said. “And I think from looking at this one, other than the little concern from the airport, if there is a good location and a bad location, this is definitely a good location compared to the one we heard before, so I won’t have any problem with supporting this.”

Commission Chairman Howard Benton said the proposed solar farm would go to City Council at its May 19 meeting.

In November, the commission had unanimously recommended against Borrego’s proposed three-megawatt solar farm about 3.8 miles south of Chuckatuck at 4029 Godwin Blvd.