Horry County leaders weighing financial benefits, panel waste issues in proposed $166 million solar farm

Grand Strand

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Horry County leaders are looking into allowing a solar farm to be built that could generate more than $500,000 for the county government every year.

An unnamed company is looking to invest $166 million towards a solar farm in the western part of the county. Some council members, however, worry the renewable energy could actually hurt the environment in the future.

Council member Johnny Vaught, who represents the Forestbrook community, says he’s concerned about what would happen to panels when they can no longer be used.

“I don’t know of a landfill in this country that takes this kind of stuff,” Vaught said. “There’s all kinds of poisons.”

The original plans for a farm fell apart about a year ago.

“We’ve been approached by a couple other entities since then and the original entity came back with this massive project,” said Robert Jordan, who’s the county’s interim finance director.

The company is promising to give the county $552,000 every year for 30 years to build the solar farm. The payment would be what’s called a “fee in lieu of taxes.”

The solar farm would go on private property in council member Al Allen’s district and council could decide to put that money towards a new, rural civic arena proposed in that area.

“That would be the only carrot on the stick that would help me to possibly consider it,” said Allen, who represents Aynor.

Council chair Johnny Gardner says that type of arrangement happens in other parts of the county.

“We have a history of that in the past, where we have done certain projects that generate money in a district,” Gardner said.

Gardner also says the county needs to further investigate if the company has had any issues with the several other counties in the state it has worked with.

“The company is willing to post a bond of 125% of the cleanup costs, now minus some salvage (costs), but if it works, it’s good for the environment and it’s good for Horry County, so I definitely want to consider it,” he said.

This proposed solar farm is still far away from being approved, as council voted Tuesday night to have the county’s infrastructure and regulation committee review it.

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