Samsung Solar Q&A
Published 9:00 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023
A Q&A on solar took place on Sept. 25th with representatives of SA solar and other interested parties. Mark Simmons, with Sustainable Sumter, gave an interview. He talked about their relationship with SA Solar.
“It’s actually a branch of Samsung. They approached us and we agreed to help them get it passed through planning and zoning, but we would like the opportunity to try to stack other environmental benefits under and around the solar panels. In other words, we don’t want them just to come in and create this solar field, intense activity for two years, and then turn around and lock it away for seventy years.”
He described potential benefits.
“We want to see if there’s pollinator habitat we can create, we want to see if there is quail habitat, or songbird habitat, or can we sequester carbon in the soil with regenerative agriculture techniques? Can we create wildlife corridors around the outside of the fence so that the wildlife can continue to move about Sumter County without being impeded?
In the twentieth century, the small farms disappeared. So all those hedgerows and fences were taken out, and that’s prime habitat for quail and other wildlife. The wildlife that are dependent, small wildlife like rabbits and quails, their populations declined drastically in the twentieth century. We can try to create habitat that is very conducive to population growth.”
He responded to concerns surrounding decommissioning.
“It is planned to be reverted back to agriculture in thirty-five years, in seventy years, whenever they decommission it, they will pull everything up, and it will go back to fields.”
He mentioned measures to ensure panels were removed.
“I think they require a bond, a decommissioning bond.”
When asked about specific species of native vegetation for the project, he replied:
“We are going to have to research that. GSW is going to help us, and South Georgia Tech, with methods and machinery and maybe even monitoring machinery. GSW is going to monitor and do wildlife census.”
Simmons stated who at GSW would be involved.
“Stephanie Harvey. She is head of biology, but also geology is going to be a part of it, and chemistry. So those three scientific venues or avenues are going to be studying this, if we get permission from SA solar, which it sounds like they will give us, because they want to promote environmental health.”
When asked if they had anything in writing, he responded:
“Not yet, but we are negotiating.”
A concerned property owner near the project, Martha Augood, also gave an interview.
“My first concern is the destruction of the ecology of the area. Lake Philema is the largest body of water in Sumter County. It is pristine. There’s only four homes on that lake. It is responsible for migration of birds, that only migrate through this area because of that water. We have nesting Bald Eagles there, we have Osprey’s there, and I believe that the solar farm will be destruction for that.”
Site preparation was a concern.
“They’re going to flatten the whole entire terrain like a football field, so you also worry about sedimentation and erosion, that will flow into that lake, and it will lower the water level, it will increase the sedimentation on the bottom of the lake, and it won’t be able to support the fish and the birds and everything.”
Augood was also concerned about property value.
“My home is adjacent to this, and you cannot tell me that it will not affect the property value of my home. My point is, would you buy property that overlooked a solar farm, if you had the choice of having another property over here that had nothing but corn growing, beautiful fields everywhere?”
Augood also mentioned upkeep.
“I also worry about who will maintain this. It’s going to be built, it may take two years for it to be built, and once it’s built, the company brings their own people in, they build these farms, they rent campers for these people to live in while they are working here, when they finish, they up and they move. So who’s going to maintain this area? Who’s going to make sure that the buffer that they say they are going to plant around this field is going to actually grow into trees?”
Her concerns reached beyond the site itself.
“Georgia is a corn deficit state, that entire 1,600 acres that they are going to put a solar farm on is growing corn right now.”