(Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the quadrant of Sherman where the solar energy facility will be built.)
Residents in the southwest section of Sherman will soon have a new neighbor — a 112-acre solar farm.
The city's Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved a site plan and specific use permit to allow Cypress Creek Renewables to put a solar energy facility in the 900-2000 blocks of West Moore Street. The planned solar farm will contain around 5,000 photovoltaic cell panels individually mounted on posts in the ground.
“The solar panels that we would be developing on this site are nonreflective,” Aaron Wilson, a senior developer with Cypress Creek Renewables, said. “They're very difficult to see. They create very little disturbance. They create no noise, no pollution. The investment essentially will take a tract of land that's crisscrossed with utility easements and put the $17 million investment on it — that includes the land and the equipment.”
Wilson said each panel will be about three feet wide by six feet tall and they'll be automated to face the east in the morning and move to the west by the end of the day. He said the solar farm will be interconnected to a power substation across the street from the facility so that it can be sent out into the community.
“It won't be put on high transmission lines sending it down to Dallas,” Wilson said. “This will be power that will essentially be generated for the local use.”
Documents provided to the commission state “the power generated from the solar farm will be sold to Oncor for use by consumers to replace energy produced from a non-renewable source.”
Wilson called Cypress Creek Renewables the second largest solar developer in the nation, noting it has a development portfolio of more than 40 projects in Texas and is currently generating electricity in the state. The Sherman solar farm will be the company's fourth project in Grayson County — the other three are in Southmayd, outside of Whitesboro and just east of Sherman right outside the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction.
“Those projects have gone through a lengthy regulatory process in order to be approved for interconnection to the grid,” Wilson said of the company's three previous projects. “So those projects are anticipated to be fully operational by the end of 2017.”
Wilson said construction on the planned solar farm on West Moore Street in Sherman is likely to begin later this year or early next year and then become operational sometime in 2018. He said once operational, the facility would produce 25.2 million kilowatt hours per year.
“Let's say an average home consumes 1,500 kilowatt hours a month, so (that would be) 18,000 kilowatt hours a year for an average home,” Wilson said. “So that (facility) would power about 1,400 homes, just the one on West Moore, each year.”
Before approving the specific use permit, the P&Z commission members asked Wilson about lighting for the facility and whether there would be any green space around the solar panels.
“We don't normally put in lighting (because) we don't want to attract people to it,” Wilson said, adding there would likely be a chain-link security fence. “Normally the lighting along the roadway is what's utilized from a security standpoint at night.”
And as for the green space, Wilson said the company plans to plant things along the fence to allow it to vegetate naturally. That prompted commissioner Sam Thorpe to ask whether Cypress Creek Renewables would have any objections to a requirement for green space being part of the specific use permit.
“I don't want to put any restrictions on you, but I just wanted to hide it a little bit,” Thorpe said.
Wilson said his company would have no problem with such a requirement and the commission ultimately required that a green screen be affixed to the fence around the solar farm.
“You'll notice that there are a lot of utility easements that are crisscrossing this tract,” Wilson said. “Those will be open for wildlife crossings and potentially if the city of Sherman wants to use that in the future for a bike path or for a nature trail, it could be used as such.”
Sherman resident Thomas Bragg, who lives across the street from the planned facility, told the commission he thought the solar farm would be a good neighbor.
“Primarily, I support the project,” Bragg said. “I think it's a good use for the area.”