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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Solar farm may soon come to Archer

Graphic of Gainesville City Hall and the County Administration Building
Graphic of Gainesville City Hall and the County Administration Building

The Alachua County Commission may use land for an energy project near the City of Archer.

The Archer Solar Project, which the commission discussed at a Tuesday evening meeting, intends to create a solar farm on a 650-acre plot of land on the northeast corner of Southwest 170th Street and Southwest 95th Avenue. First Solar is developing the project which and it will be purchased by Duke Energy, a U.S. energy provider that powers UF and areas of west Alachua County, upon completion. Duke energy will then own and operate the Archer Solar Project.

The project would be the fourth solar array source in Alachua County, said senior planner Gerald Brewington. He didn’t mention the cost of the project or information about the three other solar array sources.

The only sources of noise would come from inverters that convert solar energy into usable power, Brewington said. They will not be located near the perimeter of the site. Instead, they will be mapped between rows of panels.

The noise from the project would not be above "normal background" noise, Phillip Bergman, a public relations representative who works with First Solar, wrote in an email.

A list of 19 residents impacted by the development was presented at the meeting. The residents asked the commission to include them in the decision to rezone the property. However, Rich Kirkland, an independent appraiser, said the solar panels will not impact home values.

Laura Abram, the director of project execution, and Patrice Boyes, a land-use and environmental attorney for First Solar, spoke about the environmental and economic benefits of the solar project. The project would create nearly 200 construction jobs and $200,000 in tax revenue per year for the county.

Construction is expected to take about 15 months, Bergman wrote in an email. The completed project will produce power for about 30 years.

Santa Fe College will partner with First Solar to provide training for solar farm construction workers, Bergman wrote, if the project moves forward. First Solar will provide solar training equipment and tuition funding for up to 10 Santa Fe students.

Residents were unable to speak at the meeting to express specific concerns with the project due to a power outage. The remaining public comments and agenda items of the meeting were postponed to Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. due to the power outage in the City of Archer caused by a storm. About 900 households were impacted by the outage, said Duke Energy spokesperson Dorothy Pernu.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the land for the proposed project will not be rezoned, that the project is not a partnership between First Solar and Duke Energy and that the proposed project is the fourth solar array in Alachua County. This article has also been updated to reflect that Rich Kirkland is an independent appraiser, that Laura Abram is the director of project execution for First Solar, Patrice Boyes is a land-use and environmental attorney representing first solar and that that the reason residents' concerns were not heard was a power outage in the City of Archer and the meeting was rescheduled. The Alligator originally reported otherwise. Additional context was added to clarify the timeline of the project, tax impact and the nature of the relationship between First Solar and Santa Fe College.

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