A solar farm system in Gadsden County is still on the horizon, according to James Scrivener CEO of National Solar, Inc.
It has been a little over two years since Scrivener stood on the Capital steps and announced that Gadsden County would be the location of the southeastern United States’ largest solar farm complex.
Gadsden County had been chosen by National Solar among several counties vying for the company’s planned 400-megawatt solar farm comprised of twenty 20-megawatt facilities at a $1.5 billion investment.
After announcing that Gadsden County would be the first, National Solar later brought on board Liberty County as well as Hardee County in Central Florida.
As of last week no solar farm has been constructed in any of the three counties.
Scrivener spoke at a recent Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce Go-Gadsden meeting where he explained the number of obstacles that had slowed down the process to build the solar farms.
During the earlier stages of the process with Gadsden County it was decided to hold a referendum for the requested tax abatement that National Solar said it needed to make its model work financially.
That tax abatement referendum passed.
Scrivener said during an interview after the meeting that they gave up options on property to be used for the farms during the time the tax abatement issue was being resolved.
During the negotiations over the development agreement (how the property would receive tax abatement and other considerations), Scrivener stated, and after the tax abatement was passed, the county wanted to add a provision that National Solar have a piece of property prior to executing the agreement.
He said his board was skeptical about investing money until they had the agreement executed.
They had to go out, he said, and find another option that would fit that need and then resubmit the agreement to the county.
Two months ago county commission attorney Deborah Minnis stated she received the agreement from National Solar, which has been passed back and forth between the two entities since early 2012 after the referendum passed.
Scrivener said that along with the agreement they have submitted a site plan.
In response to why it has taken so long, Scrivener said it had been because of the option for land.
They decided, he said, to wait for a piece of property that would work for them and not put a lot of capital at risk.
Scrivener said that three or four months of the delay was on them because they were negotiating for the options on land.
When asked what he would need the county to do at this point, he responded, “Execute the agreement and return it to us.”
Once the agreement is approved, he said, there are several other sites that they will submit before the commission.
There have been no agenda items pertaining to the agreement since the county received the document.
When asked if there had not been a hold up with the county would they have been able to move quicker and, if so, would they be able to put something in the ground.
Scrivener responded that they could have moved quicker.
He added, “It’s hard to say would we have been putting something in the ground today; that is sort of a crystal ball.”
“I do know,” he continued, “that we would have been further along in the process, obviously.”
Scrivener said that there was an eight to 14-month time period for the federal permitting process and that would not start until the agreement was signed.
When asked about Hardee County’s project, he replied that they have the transmission and design completed and are engaging institutional investors now.
The inter-connection with Duke Power is going to delay that project, he said.
Best-case, he said, for that project would be late 2014.
In Liberty County they have two sites under negotiations and the development agreement has been approved.
There has been some discussion, he said, about moving those sites forward. “We are underway and in progress there as well,” Scrivener said.