Friday, July 8, 2011

Tom Terrell on the Solar Farm Deal: Are Skip Alston and Dan Lynch getting rolled by out of town carpetbaggers on the Solar Farm?

“If the atmosphere (in the meeting) is any indication,
I think we would be the front-runner,” said Melvin “Skip” Alston,
the chairman of the County Board of Commissioners.

“I think they were very impressed. ... I was very impressed with them.”

...A new company in Melbourne, Florida called National Solar Power
has just listed Guilford County as one of seven locations throughout the Southeast
where it might locate a mega solar farm at least 4,000 acres in size
(either as one tract or several tracts).

It would be the largest solar farm in the world.

...Triad Business Journal ...noted

1) this county doesn’t have 4,000 contiguous acres
or even 20 tracts of 200 contiguous acres

2) the company says tax credits and incentives are key
BUT nobody at state or local levels had even heard of the company or the project

3) it won’t create but a handful of long-term jobs, yet tie up 4,000 acres,

4) the only possible buyer of the electricity – Duke Power – knew nothing about it,

and 5) they went to the media first,
indicating either a total lack of sophistication and experience
or that something else was going on...

“We will do everything in our power to successfully land this project,”
said Dan Lynch, president of the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance.

“We had a roomful of Greensboro and Guilford County leadership,
and I think that message was strongly conveyed.”

Solar farm deal looks bright

A more subtle – but to me a far more interesting – comment was made
in a July 2, Greensboro News & Record editorial
where the paper questioned whether this “industrial” use would gobble up land
that should be reserved for industries that would hire more people,
saying “Solar farms might be better situated in a different place than land
that a manufacturing plant might need – near a highway or the airport, for example.”

“Dan Lynch did a good job of pulling the major players together,” Alston said.
“I think that is what impressed them.”

National Solar Power had three people at the meeting.

Company officials said they would be willing to consider a regional approach
for pulling together the 4,000 acres they say they need for the project.

“They would welcome that,” Lynch said. “It doesn’t have to come from one area.”

...Why would a solar farm – inherently an industrial use
– be relegated to the areas and zoning districts reserved for industry?

In fact, they should not.

Solar farms require wide open spaces, and they generate practically no traffic, noise,
dust and any of the other qualities we link to industry.

They could be located off country roads with little access to highways and airports.

...I accept the company’s statement
that incentives and tax credits will play a major role in its decision.

It’s the only point they made that makes any sense to me.

...companies occasionally establish a “straw man” location
to create the appearance of competition
so that representatives in their desired location will sweeten the incentive package.

Company officials provided more details about the project Thursday
but did not make a specific request for incentives.

“They said it would be much easier to do the deal here than in Florida,” Lynch said.

“North Carolina has a very favorable tax climate for landing solar farms.”

National Solar Power officials left with some possible sites to consider.

Lynch expects to follow up with company representatives by phone next week.

“We have to look at this like a business transaction,” Lynch said.
“In addition to making sense for the company, it has to make sense for the community.

It has to be a solid fit.”

Alston thinks that’s the case.

“I think it will be up to Dan Lynch and the economic development folks
to go ahead and seal the deal.”

Solar farm deal looks bright

My experience suggests that National Solar Power has chosen not one
but at least two and possibly a distant third location.

While it is considering engineering and other feasibility matters
it is negotiating aggressively with those local and state officials,
the local power companies, landowners and building contractors.

And in each discussion they can tell a county or a landowner
that they are considering seven – 7 – locations,
so they should not be stingy with incentives or greedy on land price.

What sites were shown to the company by Dan Lynch?

In that respect, Guilford County was just somebody’s poor choice to add to the faux list,
and now the company looks like what it truly is,
a neophyte in the area of development and local government incentives.

Tom Terrell
Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP
Greensboro, NC

We are being used as a pawn on this solar pipe dream.

When you have a Florida company with 3 places in florida they want to place the solar farm
and when we find out not one in NC development community knew about this
then we need to understand that someone told their reps
you need to have places outside of Florida to make the competition for tax dollars viable,
it would be interesting to find out why they picked guilford county.

Are we getting a reputation for giving away the farm in regards to taxpayers money in incentives ?

Kieth Brown

HOW did these people find us?

Is there an underground network disseminating information about locales "ripe for the picking"?

Do Greensboro and Guilford County have "sucker" tattooed all over their governmental images?

oh good grief

My question is, why does Duke Energy already own a solar farm in the mid-west
and is looking at building a second one,
but have shown no interest in building one here?

Maybe they know something we don't?


The bottom line. How much does Skip make off the deal?


Hat Tip Ed Cone and Doug Clark


Don Moore said...

Remember when the Minnesota Twins were moving to Kernersville? Big Time Baseball cost Greensboro a real shot at Double-A expansion franchise. Instead, we got major-league embarrassed and Minnesota Twins got a new publicly funded stadium.

triadwatch said...

add that to the list, good point