Solar farms coming to Fair Bluff, Chadbourn


A Charlottesville, Va. firm is seeking approval from the N.C. Utility Commission to site three separate 4.99-megawatt solar farms on leased property in Columbus County. Each of the solar photovoltaic farms is expected to cost more than $16 million to construct.

HelioSage Energy, via three separate limited liability companies, has obtained 15-year lease option agreements with landowners in Fair Bluff and Chabourn, according to documents filed with the state.

Broadway Solar Center will be located at 310 Dessie Rd. in Chadbourn on a 50-acre tract of land owned by Estaleen Gore. The farm is expected to begin commercial operation by Dec. 1, 2013 and sell energy to Progress Energy.

Dessie Solar Center will be located at 1041 Dessie Rd. in Chadbourn on a 50-acre tract of land owned by Texford Strickland.

Graham Solar Center will be located at 471 Graham Street in Fair Bluff on a 50 acre tract of land owned by Carolyn Elvington.

According to documents filed with the state, HelioSage Energy is a national developer of commercial and utility scale solar energy projects with more than 12 years of experience in renewable energy finance and development.

“We look forward to working with the NCUC to provide the state of North Carolina with a solar facility that further adds to the state’s diverse energy mix,” the executive summery reads.

The groundmounted system will be “Tier 1” quality according to developers.

Majority members and officers of HelioSage include Chris Walmsley, co-founder and CEO.

Columbus County commissioners received notice via email in early October that three more solar farms were planned for the county.

Work was under way on the county’s first solar farm along Midway Road near Georgia Pacific, at the time.

County Planner Robert Lewis said he was looking into what other counties were doing, if anything, to regulate solar farms and tackle issues with setbacks and other matters.

Most of the county is not zoned, meaning there is little to no regulation, but utilities such as solar farms are regulated through the N.C. Public Utilities Commission to some extent.

A few months ago, the Chadbourn Farm LLC, then under construction along Midway Road, concerned nearby landowners who say they had no notice and that work began before a permit was issued.

Several county officials say they did not disclose the plans because they felt a need to keep the project confidential.

Commissioners pressed for more openness in the permitting process of future projects.

The Chadbourn Farm LLC project brought no public notice to local newspapers.

The utilities commission required public notice according to state statute that called for publication in a daily newspaper and adjacent landowners said they did not see that notice.