UPDATE Solar officials hear concerns, answer questions from Valley Township residents

·2 min read

Aug. 11—More than 20 Valley Township residents attended an hour-long public hearing Wednesday night — the first step in a long legal process to bring a solar farm to the area.

The meeting was required by law, said township Supervisor Mike Kull.

The zoning ordinance is not being changed, Kull reiterated on Thursday. "The purpose of the [Wednesday] hearing was not to change the zoning ordinance. It was a conditional use hearing. The use (solar farm) is allowed in that zoning district. The conditional use hearing allows the board of supervisors to place additional conditions upon the use to ensure that it is consistent with the zoning district the project is in."

The project, proposed by San Diego company Borrego Energy, must be approved by township officials after a public meeting.

The hearing began with a presentation by three engineers, Tim Mills, a senior project developer, New Wave Energy; Shawn Brant, senior project engineer, also with New Wave Energy; and David Long, project manager, ARM Group, of Hershey. They explained to attendees how the array would affect the township, in a beneficial way.

About eight people whose residence would be most affected by the solar farm were permitted to voice their concerns. Those concerns largely fell along areas such as aesthetics and safety.

Andrew and Hillary Styler were concerned about noise created by the working arrays.

They also said that their research indicated that housing value would decrease if a home was located near a solar farm.

But Mills and Brant said they had research showing that the value of homes did not appreciably decrease in value if they are close to solar arrays. Mills said he would send his studies to residents who asked for documentation.

"Being near solar arrays has little to no effect on property values," he said. "We did a study in Illinois and Indiana."

The project could serve between 800 and 1,000 homes, Mills said. Residents could subscribe to the solar arrays and take advantage of the economies of scale.

"So if you wanted to get solar energy to your home you could subscribe to this project and we'd give you a 15-to-20 percent discount on your power. The project will also provide the township with additional tax revenue, over $50,000 that could be used for infrastructure projects," Mills said. "There would also be some clean energy revenue available to farmers."

Asked to put a timeline on when the solar project might actually happen, Mills said the project probably won't be built until early spring 2024.

"It's hard to give an exact timeline right now, because we are waiting for legislation to pass, and then there will be a 60-day window after legislation regarding utilities — in this case PPL — and getting the process up and running."