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David Gilbreath: Davie would benefit from solar investment
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David Gilbreath: Davie would benefit from solar investment

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Davie County has a great opportunity to participate in North Carolina’s booming solar energy industry, which is currently ranked second in the country in development. Rural counties have especially benefitted from the expansion of clean energy, raking in billions of dollars in economic development and millions of dollars in new tax revenues and creating thousands of good-paying jobs.

One of the cheapest sources of energy is now solar. Here are the reasons why solar energy is better than coal or natural gas. Source by: Stringr

The Junction Solar Center proposal is not the first, second or third solar project to be considered in Davie County, but it’s the first to offer a significant economic benefit to the citizens of Davie County, which is why the county commissioners should approve a solar ordinance that makes it possible.

According to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association’s 2019 Economic Impact Analysis of the Clean Energy Development of North Carolina, the solar industry has brought in more than $28 billion in investment leading to more than 169,000 jobs for North Carolina. This significant economic investment has benefitted nearly all 100 North Carolina counties.

The analysis says, “Duplin and Robeson Counties each experienced over $600 million in investment, while Anson, Bladen, Bertie, Catawba, Cumberland, Currituck, Halifax, Nash, Scotland, and Wilson Counties all received over $300 million in clean energy investment. Overall, there are 42 North Carolina counties with over $100 million in investment.”

At 500 acres within the fence line, the Junction solar project will bring in more than $90 million in private investment, generating $2 million in new tax revenue and creating upward of 200 construction jobs with several permanent full-time jobs once it’s operational. Even better, the project would be located in the southern part of the county just outside Cooleemee.

The project has been attacked by a few dozen citizens alleging that the sky will fall if the county approves it. This was evident at the February Planning Board meeting where representatives of Orion, the applicant for the Junction solar project, were denied the opportunity to address a bevy of false allegations espoused by opponents.

Currently, the size of the project is the primary concern because the opposition has successfully misrepresented it at 853 acres. Junction opponents have misstated that every acre will have solar panels, which is incorrect and purposely misleading. It’s my understanding that only 500 acres will be within the fence line, while the remaining acreage will be used for setbacks, vegetative buffers, berms and environmental and landowner exclusions. This is a much different reality than opponents want us to believe.

Don’t be swayed by the “sky is falling” hysteria. If the opponents’ charges were remotely true, then how could our state continue to build solar energy projects for more than 13 years? Surely, we would have seen by now multiple investigations, reports and even arrests. But nothing. Nada!

We can look right down the road to several solar farms in current operation in Davie County. Not one neighbor complaint or environmental violation has been filed for almost 10 years, but out of nowhere, the sky will fall if the Junction solar project is approved? Fake news.

It’s time for Davie County to benefit fully from the growing solar energy industry in North Carolina. As a long-time Davie County resident, pastor and co-leader of Citizens for a Better Future-Davie County, I believe the Junction solar project brings the promise of economic growth through clean, reliable energy generated from the sun. That’s good for our community.

I respectfully ask our county commissioners to support an ordinance that enables the Junction solar project to go forward, so our county can continue to grow and prosper.

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