Florida Power & Light representatives presented plans to build a solar farm on the Iota Carol property to the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, April 17.
The Iota Carol property, almost entirely surrounded by the GL Homes residential property west of The Acreage, was denied permission to build homes there by the Palm Beach County Commission in 2017. The land was subsequently sold to FPL.
Matt Silver, FPL project manager for the solar farm, said the energy center will be called the Sabal Palm Solar Energy Center.
“We have a property formerly known as the Iota Carol property, and we are going to be installing our second solar energy farm here in Palm Beach County,” Silver said, explaining that the solar farm will be located on the southern half of the 1,288-acre property north of 60th Street between Carol Street and 190th Trail.
“We believe solar energy centers make great neighbors,” he said. “They are virtually silent. There’s no lights at night or anything to that effect. There’s no increase in traffic. Once it’s in operation, there’s no water and certainly no fuel. There won’t be any pipelines or anything like that for a solar plant.”
He added that the solar panels sit low to the ground at about 6.5 to 8 feet, and the farm will remove a carbon emissions equivalent of 12,000 cars.
“It will power about 15,000 homes right here in Palm Beach County and create about 200 construction assembly jobs once it’s under construction,” Silver said.
The first phase will remove any invasive exotic plants.
“The remaining vegetation will not be taken out because it’s on our neighbor’s property,” Silver said. “I will add that there’s no noise when you’re standing at the edge of the property. It’s essentially ambient noise.”
Supervisor Tim Sayre asked how high the fence will be, and Silver said the fence will be six feet.
“Did you get a waiver from the county? Because fences across front yards can only be 4 feet high, and I don’t know if they consider all that access front or not because there’s not an actual physical house on it,” Sayre said.
Silver said that to his knowledge, FPL has not been required to get a waiver, but he would speak to the county about it.
“We’re currently in the [development review] process, so I’m sure we’ll be getting some more comments back,” Silver said.
Sayre added that he was aware that the remaining 640 acres is planned for agriculture, but he asked if there were long-range plans.
“It’s entirely possible that there could be a second solar energy center,” Silver said, adding that the panels for the planned energy center will be fixed, facing roughly southward.
Sayre said that he was concerned about plans to bring in a huge transformer on a large truck.
“I assume you’re bringing it down Northlake [Blvd.] to Seminole Pratt Whitney [Road] and then down Orange [Blvd.] all the way out to the field there?” Sayre asked.
Silver said that was one of the discussions FPL would need to have with ITID.
The construction is slated to go on for nine months.
“You’re going to be moving all kinds of equipment, and I don’t know how many solar panels,” Sayre said. “I don’t know what they weigh, but will you be overweight on the semis going in and out on the roads?”
“They won’t be overweight,” Silver replied. “They will be following [Florida Department of Transportation] laws.”
Sayre explained that he is concerned about the impact on Acreage roads.
“The long-term impact on the roads based on what it does to the substructure under the road with all the weight on it,” Sayre said. “Even though it’s not visible right away, it might harm it.”
Stefanie Mitreone, external affairs manager for FPL, said she would talk to the contractors to confirm those kinds of details.
“At this point, we really don’t have answers, but any concerns that you have, we’re more than happy to handle those details,” Mitreone said.
ITID Attorney Frank Palin wanted to talk about some issues that came out of discussions that have already taken place with FPL.
“One was already mentioned by Mr. Sayre, the impact on Indian Trail’s access road that will be used, which is about three miles from Seminole Pratt Whitney Road to the boundary of the property,” Palin said. “Two miles is on Orange Blvd., which is an Indian Trail road. We already have confirmation from the company that they will address any issues of damage during the construction process.”
Palin added that ITID would need some type of confirmation that FPL did not damage the road during the construction process. Once the project is constructed, there would be virtually no traffic associated with the solar farm, he noted.
“From that perspective, we can thank FPL for purchasing this property and taking off Iota Carol, another 1,000-unit residential development, so that’s 10,000 trips we don’t have to worry about from the property,” Palin explained.
The other part of the discussion was about Santa Rosa Groves over the creation of a unit of development.
“The east boundary of Santa Rosa Groves and the west boundary of the FPL property is Carol Street, which is an unimproved roadway that serves as a primary access for the residents of Santa Rosa Groves,” Palin said, adding that assuming that Santa Rosa Groves is activated, there is the question of who will assume the maintenance of Carol Street.
“That road is on FPL property,” Palin said. “It is outside the physical boundaries of Santa Rosa Groves. However, if that road is improved, the unit could finance the improvement and continued maintenance of that road.”
Palin said ITID would need to have some more discussions with FPL and reach a formal agreement that ITID and Santa Rosa Groves would have jurisdiction over the road.