County wants more in inspection fees

Aug. 17, 2013 @ 05:01 PM

The Union County Board of Commissioners holds a public hearing Monday to consider inspection rates for solar power farms.

An application for a $9 million solar farm was submitted to the county, according to agenda documents. County officials realized that the $60 inspection fee falls short of paying for all the inspections such a solar farm needs during construction.

Solar farms are new, so few local governments have developed an inspections fee schedule for such a facility. Catawba County was the only North Carolina county with an inspections schedule already in place.

The county’s building code enforcement department staff wrote a draft fee schedule that commissioners will consider at Monday’s meeting.

“Since our normal permit fees are based upon the size of the structure rather than construction cost, it was determined that the fairest approach would be to establish the permit fee on the number of megawatts produced,” the agenda document states.

Considering the project size and inspection time required, the county proposes charging $1,000 per megawatt for smaller farms. Larger ones would fall into a fee scale where the price falls according to the number of megawatts. A solar farm producing more than 10 megawatts would pay $775 per megawatt.

Because the concept is so new to local government, county officials are uncertain how many inspections are needed per solar array. County staff based the fee schedule on the assumption of at least two inspections per array.

Residents can comment on the fee proposal at the public hearing held during the commissioners meeting. The Union County Board of County Commissioners meet 7 p.m. Monday in the Union County Government Building.