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Energy

West Baton Rouge officials are moving to require licenses as a result of more solar plants that are in the works

Before constructing in West Baton Rouge Parish, the solar energy plant developers will now require to apply their proposals after the parish council adopted a bill on Thursday, allowing them greater authority over those initiatives. Last month, parish officials postponed the development of solar plants because of questions over how the initiative would affect the aesthetics of this parish. On Thursday, the Council overwhelmingly passed an order forcing corporations to obtain permits if they wish to develop on property zoned as agricultural land. “We’re essentially here tonight to defend both the property owner, the builder and the resident,” stated Alan Crowe, Council Member. His district includes the town where a recently planned solar farm would go.

The announcement came after residents and parish representatives expressed questions about the San Francisco-based company Bueche PV1 LLC’s intentions to construct a second, bigger solar power plant on Bueche Road north of Port Allen. The plant will join Capital Region Solar, which is a 50-megawatt solar power facility that came live earlier this year, west of Port Allen. It has gotten something of a lukewarm welcome from some locals and parish officials, who have protested of unkempt grass as well as ditches, as the first utility-scale solar plant in the state. At Thursday’s conference, several residents have commented on questions about these ventures’ impact on property prices.

“We felt like we’ll have to do something,” stated Carey Denstel, a Council Member. “In the month of November, that kind of blindsided us, and then we just felt like we had to get moving.” Since the parish lacks any regulations about where to install a solar project, developers could not request proposals when developing property zoned as the agricultural land. The new ordinance also grants the Council the right to set such rules and to undertake studies for solar installations or more detail. Helios, Capital Region Solar’s management firm, said it wants to install fencing to screen the plant and resolve other public responses it has got.

The parish council also lifted a provisional ban on solar farm building which it had approved last month. The new project is expected to cost around $240 million, with work beginning in 2022 and ending at the end of the previous year, as per the Louisiana Economic Development filing. It is estimated that 430 temporary construction workers will be brought in, and one permanent vacancy will be established until finished. In Pride as well as East Feliciana Parish, the firm has proposed proposals for two related projects. Solar energy has become more widespread in the state, a development largely influenced by a rapid decline in solar panel content costs.