August 4, 2021

Walton’s planning committee approves a solar energy proposition

2 min read

The Planning Commission of Walton County recently agreed to develop a solar power facility in the northern parts of the County. The Commission analyzed the Chautauqua Solar Energy Center proposal by Gulf Power. After realizing that it resonates with the County’s development plan, it decided to approve it to stimulate economic growth. 

Gulf Power, which engineered the proposal, presented it before the committee and some region residents who noted that the project was inclusive of their demands. The CareerSource Okaloosa-Walton and Emerald Coast Technical College representatives also agreed with the project, citing the locals’ opportunity to receive training to take jobs in this project. The project’s location or site is advantageous for Gulf Power since their transmission lines can tap the site’s energy and transfer it from the solar facility to the grid. 

Gulf Power’s engineer Brandon Eckard stated that the project would unveil the northern region’s power generation potential by bringing in new technology. Approval of the project by the county commissioners early next year will make Walton County witness the installation of the Chautauqua Solar Energy Center that would produce close to 75 MW of power. This quantity of energy will meet the energy needs of over 2000 households. 

The Planning Commission discovered that the project’s approval and the initiation of construction operations would generate over 200 employment opportunities. Mac Carpenter, the head of the Planning Commission, reiterated that the inception of the program into the scheme would invade the land dedicated for agricultural projects. Nevertheless, he noted that this industrial usage of the land would be beneficial to the County since it does not pollute or degrade the environment as other projects would. 

Dana Matthews, the legal expert of Gulf Power, told the planning committee that this land is under no obligation intended for agricultural use since it was agreed upon because of public policy to make it a renewable energy land. The proposal has gone through different reviews by the Technical Review Committee (TRC) of the County before warranting approval for discussion by the planning board. 

The TRC discussions on this project measured the possible intricacies that the agricultural proponents might explore to impede its approval. The committee observed the setbacks (the length from a property where another building or project can be erected) and the buffers (the vegetation that marks the beginning of another building or project). Property owners living close to the facility argued that the project would generate noise pollution and other environmental problems. 

Finally, the Gulf Power representatives convinced the Planning Commission that the project would address the development code, reducing interferences to the neighborhood. The representatives advised the property owners living close to the site to give the project an opportunity since it won’t interfere with their wellbeing. 

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