Beltline Energy LLC shows interest in potential Brown Farm Road development

Atlanta company pursuing solar energy project in Bartow

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An Atlanta-based renewable energy development company has filed a request for a conditional use permit to potentially construct a solar energy project along Brown Farm Road in Bartow County.

"The project is still in its planning stages at this time," said Beltline Energy LLC Manager of Site Acquisition Dan Stevenson. "If it moves forward, it would be a ground-mount solar project using photovoltaic solar panels, and the project would be no greater than 30 acres in size."

Ryan Sanders, Beltline Energy LLC founding partner, said at the moment the company has no concrete plans to construct a solar farm in Bartow County — rather, they're simply trying to confirm the viability of the zoning for such a project along Brown Farm Road.

If "zoning suitability" has been confirmed with the local government and additional "due diligence" is completed, Stevenson said Beltline Energy would work alongside Georgia Power to determine if the project will be developed.

"All power produced by the project would feed directly into Georgia Power's utility grid and be consumed within the Bartow County community," he said. "It is expected the project would create approximately $300,000 in additional tax revenue for the county over the project's life."

According to the company's website, Beltline Energy is a firm "with over 200 [megawatts] and $350 million of project experience developing solar power generation facilities in the Southeastern U.S."

Their projects in Georgia include operational solar farm sites in Burke, Coffee, Dodge and Effingham counties.

"As far as I know, they haven't reached out to the county for any kind of incentives," said Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson. "In the past, we've turned down incentives on solar, anyway, so they may have got that message and decided it wasn't worth asking."

Olson said he believes the success or failure of Beltline Energy's proposed project hinges on whether or not the firm receives an allotment from Georgia Power's solar energy program "lottery." He noted this is not the first time a renewable energy company has sought to develop a solar farm within the county.

"One wanted to do a 5 megawatt out at the closed landfill, one wanted to do one on the [Joint Development Authority] property out there behind Toyo — neither of them won their award, they didn't win the lottery, so to speak, to get one ... I assume that somebody's who's coming to build that is only going to want to build it if they can get a 20-year agreement with Georgia Power to sell them the power at an above-market rate," Olson said. "It's being driven by this [Public Service Commission] mandate for Georgia Power to have a certain amount of solar — in other words, it's an artificial market created by the state."

If the proposed project advances to construction, Olson said he believes the total impact of the development on the community would be fairly minimal.

"It doesn't generate truck traffic, it doesn't really generate car traffic," he said. "It just kind of sits there — it doesn't even make noise, really."

Still, Olson said it's anybody's guess what kind of reaction the proposed development would receive from nearby homeowners.

"They don't want to have to be looking out across from their properties at these big fields of glaring solar panels," he said. "So that's usually an aspect that has to be considered — what their buffering is, is it well-shielded from any neighborhoods or surrounding citizens who might object to it?"

The Bartow County Planning Commission will review the application at 6 p.m. on Oct. 1 at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, 135 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville. Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor will vote to approve or deny the conditional use permit at a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. at the same venue on Oct. 3.