Darlington County officials, residents concerned over solar farm plan

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – Some Hartsville residents are getting more and more concerned as they learn about plans to build several solar farms on hundreds of acres of land.

“I will move. I will be forced to move, I do not feel safe,” serious words considering how much William Griggs loves his home here on Mockingbird Street in the Byrdtown community of Hartsville.

“We feel like if they get the building permit in the next few weeks we’ll be taken advantage of,” Griggs said.

The proposal is part of a plan by Innovative Solar, LLC to build as many as eight solar farms in Darlington County using thousands of panels and hundreds of acres of land.

Innovative Solar has developed more than 100 solar sites in the past, but Griggs said he’s worried about some of the chemicals experts say are often used to make the solar panels.

“Cadmium, mercury, arsenic,” Griggs listed. “I just don’t understand why something that’s called ‘renewable energy’ needs these chemicals in it.”

Griggs and his neighbors believe Innovative Solar is trying to sidestep the law to speed up the solar farms’ construction. News 13 obtained documents from Darlington County regarding the solar farm plan.

In an April letter from Lance Roddy — Innovative Solar’s land development manager — to Darlington County, Roddy asks county officials to “allow a solar farm to be approved by the Planning Commission without providing all of the items required…”

The letter goes on to say Innovative needs this approval quickly so their investors will devote millions to the project.

A letter back to Roddy dated June 2016 on behalf of Darlington County said the county “supports renewable energy,” and offers a “conditional approval” to the farm plan without requiring several permits, which is exactly what the county Planning Commission did on September 20.

Monday night’s first reading of the plan was the first time several county council members had even heard of the proposed solar farm, something District Three’s Wilhelmina P. Johnson was very upset about.

“When we’re doing something for the community, the leaders need to be aware of what’s going on,” Johnson said.

Griggs and his neighbors asked for a moratorium on new solar farms until a clearer plan can be put together. A workshop is planned for council members to learn more about solar energy in about two weeks.