Planning committee gives approval for Dougherty Solar Energy Center

Planning committee gives approval for Dougherty Solar Energy Center

DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - On Thursday, the Dougherty County Planning Commission voted unanimously to grant a special approval recommendation to the Dougherty County Solar Energy Center.

If the county commission approves it, a more than 1,000-acre solar farm would be built in East Dougherty County.

A peanut field is the proposed site for the Dougherty County Solar Energy Center. It's off Moultrie Road at Spring Flats Road to Gravel Hill Road, behind the Mercedes Baptist Church.

If approved, NextEra Energy would rent the land and build more than 525,000t photovoltaic solar panels across 1,089 acres.

"It's not just Georgia, it's all over the country," said NextEra Spokesperson Steve Stengel. "Solar has become so cost competitive that it's not just something that you are seeing in the desert southwest anymore."

Georgia Power is driving the development of the Dougherty County Solar Center.

It would generate up to 120 megawatts and sell the energy to Georgia Power.

Besides generating power for South Georgia homes, the company said the solar center would generate approximately $10 million in tax revenue for Dougherty County.

"From the county's perspective, it's going to generate more tax revenue than just a farm would," said the Director of Planning and Development Paul Forgey. "So it is more profitable for the county than if it was just the farmland, or especially just vacant land."

NextEra said this would be one of its largest solar energy farms in the south.

If approved, they would employ approximately 300 construction jobs for the 10 months expected to build the half-million solar panels.

"This is a win-win for the community. We hope that the community is as excited as we are about the project," said Single.

Dougherty County planners said they have already been contacted by other solar developers, which could be a new industry hub.

"So the developers are looking at this area because the land is relatively cheap," said Forgey. "There is a lot of it. And our regulations are generally easier to deal with than the metropolitan counties."

A public hearing was held Thursday afternoon to let residents talk about the solar energy center. A second public hearing to speak to county commissioners will be held on Monday, August 20 at 10 a.m. at the Government Center in downtown Albany.

If approved, NextEra said it plans to begin construction in the first quarter of 2019.

The music director of the church bordering the property was the only speaker at the public hearing and asked for information about a buffer between the project and the church parsonage.

If approved, NextEra hopes to begin operation in December 2019.

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