High Springs to hear Duke Energy solar power plan

Field of solar panels

The High Springs City Commission will hear at its Thursday regular meeting a proposal involving more than 700 acres for solar power development.

“Duke Energy is evaluating the possibility of siting a solar power development in an approximate area of the city limits and to annex in an additional 720 acres,” according to the agenda and backup documents.

That facility would have a 150-foot buffer surrounding it and would include 30 acres of pollinator plantings.

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According to the presentation slides, the connection to the utility grid would be underground from the facility to Duke Energy 230 kV Ginnie Substation in Gilchrist County.

The agenda item states that the presentation only “to introduce the project to the Commission and get feedback.”

If the plan moves forward, Duke Energy will conduct community outreach in the form of area residents being invited to an open house, along with “periodic construction updates.”

That open house would be held to educate the public and would include subject matter experts to answer questions.

According to Duke’s presentation slides, the company estimates that Alachua County would earn more than $12 million in property tax revenue over a minimum of 30 years, the predicted life of the solar project.

Duke will also present its job creation estimate of up to 200 local construction positions during the project’s peak.

“Duke has already done their due diligence,” said High Springs spokesman Kevin Mangan. “Now they’re ready to put their plan before the commission and see what their feedback is.”

The presentation comes amid new legislation that could affect the project. Florida SB 896 “requires solar facilities to be a permitted use in all agricultural land use categories in a local government’s comprehensive plan and all agricultural zoning districts within an unincorporated area,” according to the bill summary.

The Florida Senate has approved the bill with a 25-14 vote as has the Florida House with a 86-29 vote. If Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it into law, it would take effect on July 1.

Mangan said the commission is in fact-finding mode and does not have a timeline for making a decision. 

The High Springs City Commission meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m at High Springs City Hall (23718 W US Hwy 27). The meeting will take place in person and virtually. The public may attend virtually via Zoom, Facebook Live or YouTube Live.

“We want to hear from people, and that is why we try to make these meetings as accessible as possible,” Mangan said. 

—With reporting from J.C. Derrick

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