Bryan County commissioners at their most recent meeting approved an ordinance allowing for solar farms in the unincorporated portion of the county.
The zoning change comes with strict requirements about where such facilities can be located and steps that must be taken to minimize their impact on the surrounding area.
County Administrator Ben Taylor said the county has received a “growing number of inquiries” over the last few months about establishing such an ordinance.
“With the proliferation of such complexes happening all around us, it is important to establish a zoning code that manages their aesthetic and environmental impact,” he told commissioners.
The ordinance would only allow for such facilities in areas of the county zoned as A-5 agricultural and then only on parcels of 25 or more acres.
A map Taylor showed commissioners indicated very few such parcels on the south end of the county, but several on the north end.
The ordinance states that some portion of the property must be within two miles of an existing electrical transmission line. A buffer of 200 feet from residential land uses and 100 feet from roadways is required unless berms are built to shield the operation from public view.
The solar collectors must also be designed with an anti-reflective coating to minimize glare. On-site electrical connections and powerlines will have to be underground if feasible, and a warning sign located at the main gate must state the address of the site, the name of the operator and a local phone number to contact in case of emergency.
Decommissioning of a facility will be required if no electricity is generated for 12 consecutive months.
Commissioner Steve Myers asked what would qualify as a solar farm.
“What if a guy has 16 acres and wants to put up 40 solar panels to get off the grid?” he asked. “I’ve even thought about that just to run my well.”
Taylor said the ordinance would allow the county to issue conditional use permits after holding public hearings on such matters.