BYH to the one who thinks that we are energy independent because of this president. The initiatives you speak of began...

The ongoing debate over solar power


N.C. State soil scientist Ron Heiniger worries that large solar facilities like the 650-acre Summit Farms Solar Facility in Currituck County (pictured) could damage the farming environment.


Monday, January 1, 2018

The sun rises and sets. So does the outlook for solar energy in an eastern North Carolina county.

A three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled last month that developers were illegally denied a permit to build a commercial solar farm by Currituck County in 2016. The decision removes a cloud from the otherwise bright solar industry in North Carolina — second in the nation behind California — but doesn’t necessarily signal clear skies in the future.

The ruling could be appealed to the Supreme Court. Or the legislature could reduce tax breaks for solar farms, making investments less lucrative.

And Currituck County already acted earlier this year to bar future development of solar farms.

“Large solar projects haven’t been a good deal for Currituck County residents, says Bobby Hanig, the county commission’s chairman,” Carolina Journal reported in April.

Not all residents agree, but their elected representatives are empowered to set zoning regulations and decide what land uses are allowed.

“Solar array” was a permitted use listed in Currituck County’s development ordinance in 2015 when Currituck Sunshine Farm LLC and Ecoplexus Inc. applied to build a solar farm on a former golf course in Grandy. The county’s planning staff and Planning Board recommend approval. But when the Board of Commissioners held a hearing, acting as a “quasi-judicial” body, a number of residents complained that solar panels wouldn’t be compatible with nearby neighborhoods; there were drainage problems on the site; and home values might be adversely affected. Commissioners rejected the application.

The developers challenged the decision. A Superior Court judge upheld the county’s action, but the appellate court reversed. Its ruling, written by Judge John Tyson, found that the developers complied with all county requirements and that no competent evidence was presented to the contrary. Specifically, the commissioners’ finding that the solar farm would endanger public health and safety wasn’t supported by facts.

A county board of commissioners may be a political body, but when it sits to determine whether an applicant for a conditional use permit qualifies, it must act in a legal capacity. In regard to fears about drainage and flooding, the Currituck board “wholly ignored Petitioners’ expert testimony on water management, and solely considered lay witnesses’ testimony of their speculative fears of worsening floods due to the present state of storm water drainage and management on adjacent properties,” Tyson wrote.

Perhaps anticipating this ruling, Currituck County, following another public hearing, wrote solar farms out of its development ordinance. Arguments were presented on both sides, by farmers who wanted to lease their land for energy development and by people who don’t see much benefit. Currituck County already has two large solar farms.

While the tax revenue for the county is substantial, it is limited by state law, which grants an 80 percent property tax exemption to encourage solar development. Bills were filed in the state House and Senate this year to reduce that break to 60 percent, but neither advanced.

Solar is filling more of our country’s energy needs and offers revenue opportunities in parts of the state where farming and traditional industries have declined. But not every local government will favor such developments. Communities should be able to set their own rules — as long as they abide by legal requirements.

The Court of Appeals made the right call in this case. The people of Currituck County can decide whether to support their leaders’ decision regarding future solar development — and should hold them accountable for acting in the sunlight of public interest.

The News and Record of Greensboro


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


December 16, 2018

All journalists enjoy getting recognition for their work. But by nature and tradition, they’d much rather tell the story than be the story.

What motivates reporters, from Maryland to Myanmar, is not the desire for fame. It’s the hunger to break news, explain the world and hold the…


December 15, 2018

The Trump administration on Nov. 30 gave five companies permission to conduct seismic airgun blasting off the coast of the Carolinas and other states, a major step toward offshore oil and gas drilling.

Here’s what that would look like, directly off the Carolinas’ coasts and extending…

Offshore Drilling Lawsuit

December 14, 2018

Thomas A. Farr was a woefully bad choice to be a federal district judge in North Carolina.

Thank goodness Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, stood up for principle over blind party loyalty and announced that he would oppose Farr’s nomination. With all 49 Democrats in the Senate…

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December 13, 2018

North Carolina corporations, again, are about to get another huge tax break — a break they do not need. It will make it more difficult for the government to meet the obligations it has to provide a quality education to the state’s children and high quality of life to all its…

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December 12, 2018

In his 1991 confirmation hearings, C-SPAN noted on Friday, former attorney general William Barr declared that "nothing could be more destructive of our system of government, of the rule of law, or Department of Justice as an institution, than any toleration of political interference with the…

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December 10, 2018

While the National Flood Insurance Program covers only 134,000 households our of North Carolina’s 3.8 million, it will likely pay for repairs costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Add all the damage in other states this year, from Florence and later from Hurricane Michael, which flattened…

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December 09, 2018

It is almost a truism in criminal investigations that those who flip early and help prosecutors build their case against higher-ranking figures are shown greater leniency than those who try to gut it out.

Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, is…

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December 08, 2018

In June 1948, after the College World Series and graduation day at Yale, young George H.W. Bush packed up his cranberry-red Studebaker (a graduation gift from his father) and headed the car’s distinctive nose in a southwesterly direction. The little car got him to Odessa and to a shotgun…

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December 07, 2018

In the week since the state Board of Elections declined to certify the results of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District election, journalists and others have begun to fill in the details of a troubling case of apparent ballot fraud. In Bladen County — and perhaps other counties…

Election 2018 North Carolina Congress

December 04, 2018

As many as 670,000 North Carolinians could gain sorely needed Medicaid coverage if Gov. Roy Cooper and members of both parties in the legislature will work together to help them.

Now that voters have restored some balance to the state’s power structure, that idea isn’t so far-fetched…

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