Calhoun County Commission approves two new solar farms

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BLOUNTSTOWN, Fla. (WMBB) — In a 4-to-1 vote, the Calhoun County Commission approved the installation of two solar farms in the area on Tuesday evening.

After hours of presentations and passionate discussion, Florida Power and Light got the approval they needed to build to solar farm sites: the Chipola River site and the Flowers Creek site.

“If they put themselves in my place, they wouldn’t want no part of it,” Calhoun County resident, Byron Allen said. “And even the guys putting the solar farms in, wouldn’t want to live in one neither. And they can tell you all they want to tell you, they wouldn’t want to do it.”

Both sites were up for discussion at the meeting, but the Flowers Creek site drew the largest crowd and sparked controversy among residents.

“Farming feeds Calhoun County,” said Calhoun County resident, Everett Baggett. “Why would we sacrifice that many acres of farm land for a 8 to 10 month benefit that is not gonna bring that many jobs to Calhoun county?”

While residents who live near the Flowers Creek solar farm sites say they were disappointed with tonight’s decision, Florida Power and Light said they’re ready to work with residents when it comes time for those solar panels to be installed.

“Solar energy centers make great neighbors the panels will ultimately sit in a field and soak up sun and create clean energy for customers across the sunshine state,” said FPL Project Developer, Stephen Heiman.

Heiman said their company tries to operate with transparency by working with residents and local leaders.

“We provide all of the important information, we meet the county land development codes, and develop projects that not only benefit the local areas in which their built, but benefit the sunshine state as a whole,” Heiman said.

Heiman also said FPL will put in landscape buffer in excess of what the county requires, they will use cattle fencing styles to go with the agricultural landscape and all entrances will be off of Highway 274 for the Flowers Creek site.

Some residents also viewed the new solar farms as an asset to economic growth in the county.

“It puts the county in position to be a green energy producer and it makes us open to entice other green developments,” said Kristy Terry with the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce.

FPL said the Chipola River site will be around 780 acres and the Flowers Creek site will be around 688 acres. Construction on both sites will begin in 2022 and each site will take 8 to 10 months to complete.

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