Darlington County officials hear from solar energy experts

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – Representatives from several solar companies, DHEC, and a property appraiser were on hand Thursday night at Hartsville Middle School. The experts did their best to dispel fears about proposed solar farms in the rural areas of Darlington County.

The meeting lasted more than three hours. One by one, each expert came to the microphone to explain why people should not be afraid of a solar farm in their communities.

Many of the experts talked about the heavy metals used inside the solar panels — which some feared may be toxic.

Others explained how the energy from solar panels will be used, and hoped to bring others on board.              

 “It didn’t change my mind,” said Hal Johnson.

Johnson, a Hartsville resident and vocal opponent of the farms, said he’s not convinced yet.

 “I think a lot of the information was pro-solar,” said Johnson. “That’s because many of these experts were here for paid appearances.”

Johnson said aside from the environmental concerns, he’s more worried about what may happen if one of the six proposed farms has to close.

“We’re still very worried about the decommissioning process,” Johnson said. “Those questions still really haven’t been answered. I think council also had some questions, and I’m not sure they got the answers they were looking for either.”

Darlington County Council chairman Bobby Hudson said he was satisfied with the answers he got from the forum.

“It would be an economic boost if we could get some of these markets in here,” explained Hudson.  “We’re certainly gonna weigh this out and have the citizens comments and listen to what they have to say and go back and make a decision that will hopefully be right for everybody.”

A DHEC representative told the public and the council that the stormwater permits needed to build a solar farm would be followed to the letter before any building happens.

The property appraiser in his presentation showed council several examples of similar communities who have built solar farms and said in none of the examples did home sales or property values drop.

There will be a first reading on proposed changes to Darlington County’s solar farm ordinance at the regularly scheduled council meeting Monday evening.