MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Hundreds of short term jobs, a few permanent ones and lots of power may come through the western end of the CSRA and across the state. McDuffie County leaders are working to bring renewable energy to this part of Georgia.
We spoke with McDuffie County Community Development’s Jason Smith about the project. He said, “Development is moving westward from Augusta. It has been for years. We know it’s kind of moving past Martinez and Evans and moving down I-20 to the Grovetown area. With Amazon in the Harlem area, we know that exit 175 in McDuffie County is the next logical step from that.” He added leaders welcome people to try to come to their part of town.
That’s what Rock House Solar aims to do. It’s a proposed 325 megawatts capacity solar panel farm. The developer, EDF Renewables, already started the process, getting the needed variance to exceed the solar land limit, which is 25 acres. It will occupy a large area cultivated by the timber industry along Randall Hunt Road between Hampton Davis and Old White Oak roads.
“I think Georgia kind of compared to other states in the south and southeast is relatively underdeveloped when it comes to solar,” said Project Developer Telemachos (Telly) Manos. “So, there is a lot of opportunity space for developers to come in and build new facilities.”
Manos added the selected space in the town of Dearing is well connected, close to Georgia Power’s substation, which it plans to tap into, with plenty of undeveloped land around it.
The above map represents the 2,915 acres available for the project. But, Manos stressed the final footprint will be about 1800 acres, complete with a maintenance building and access roads.
He said, “The electricity that we’re going to be producing is pretty significantly cheaper to what Georgia Power is currently paying from a lot of their other generation sources.”
The $300 to $320 million project would bring 250 construction jobs that would contribute to the local hospitality industry as well as two to four full time jobs and a promise to contract local services such as McDuffie area mowers. The biggest benefit, Manos explained, would be to the increased tax revenue.
“It’s going to be in the form of increased property taxes from this particular project, so it’s going to be an assessed value,” Manos said. “And it’s going to be in the form of sales tax.
The project is still in its infancy. Construction won’t begin until next year. If approved, it would be operational in 2025.
Additionally, EDF plans to become part of the community, giving a helping hand to entities that help people in need, such as the local food bank.
Next, commissioners need to approve the measure on Tuesday.