Solar farm proposed in Zephyrhills – The Laker/Lutz News

Tampa Electric Company is seeking permission to proceed with a 74.5 megawatt solar farm and substation, north of County Line Road and east of Paul S. Buchman Highway.

The request is part of the company’s long-term strategy to build a grid that is reliable and meets its customer’s needs, according to a March 20 letter the utility company sent to some Pasco residents.

The letter is among materials in the agenda packet for the May 6 meeting of the Pasco County Commission.

Tampa Electric, otherwise known as TECO, is seeking a special exception from the planning board to proceed with its plans.

Planning commissioners opened the hearing on the request, but continued it after the representative for the utility company had technical problems in making a remote connection.

One couple, who live in an area surrounded by the proposed solar farm, voiced opposition to the project. They said they’re concerned about potential — as yet unknown —  impacts the solar farm could have on their health.

In its letter, TECO officials said “If all goes well, we hope the solar facility is complete and producing energy from the sun in 2023.”

The county allows solar farms as a special exception in some agricultural districts.

The proposed solar farm would be located on a 576-acre site that now contains the Palm River Dairy Farm and some single-family dwellings, according to materials in the agenda packet.

The site is in the southeastern portion of unincorporated Pasco County.

The future land use designation on the site is for residential and light industrial uses.

The current use of the site is for an active dairy farm, and as pasture for dairy cows and cattle.

The proposed solar farm will use film photovoltaic (PV) panels that absorb sunlight and directly produce electricity, the agenda materials say.

The solar farm will encompass approximately 95 acres of the total site, but the panels will be situated at different locations on the land, according to maps in the file and meeting testimony.

Access to the property is from Bay Avenue.

The subject site is located next to Martin Marietta Materials, which uses are aggregate transfer facility, asphalt plant, rail spur, aggregate sorting and conveyance system, storage yard, sales and operational offices.

The solar farm will be unmanned and will be remotely monitored.

The maximum structure of the photovoltaic panels, supports, substation building, and any other structures shall be 15 feet. A lightning mast and the utility equipment located totally within the substation site may exceed this height, provided they comply with the additional setbacks of the county’s land development code.

Conditions for approval, contained in the agenda packet, spell out minimum setbacks, buffering requirements and noise regulations.

Also, before approval of the preliminary development plan and/or preliminary site plan, the applicant shall provide a decommission plan for the site, which may be reviewed and approved by the county administrator or his designee.

If the applicant ceases operations or the solar farm no longer works properly or is abandoned, the applicant is responsible for decommissioning the solar farm within 180 days.

The decommissioning shall include the removal and disposal of all material and equipment, in a manner that is consistent with industry standards and practices.

The site also shall be restored to the condition that existed immediately following the initial site clearing and grading, the agenda materials say.

Published May 19, 2021


May 18, 2021 Harold ottle