- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

COVINGTON, Tenn. (AP) - A company’s plans to convert Tennessee farmland into a solar power project are drawing complaints from neighbors.

Community Energy Solar hopes to generate enough electricity from the planned solar farm beyond the eastern edge of Covington to power 4,000 to 5,000 homes, The Commercial Appeal (https://bit.ly/1LxTjgK) reported.

The company is expected to file a site plan for the 23-megawatt facility during the next month and complete construction in the middle of next year.

Neighbors in a subdivision bordering the property are voicing concerns about the project’s potential aesthetic, health and environmental impacts. They want it moved farther away from the residences.

“I don’t think anybody here opposes a solar farm. We just oppose it here,” said Mark Petty, a 64-year-old retiree who lives in one of more than 20 homes in Country Club Lake Estates development just south of the prospective solar power site.

The company already has leased the 469-acre site and apparently needs no rezoning approval.

During a recent informal meeting with about three dozen residents concerning the project, Community Energy Solar co-owner Tom Tuffey tried to ease concerns.

“We’re not Johnny-come-lately,” he said. “We’ve been doing this a while. We know how to do it.”

The only noise emitted by the facility, Tuffey said, will be the hum of the inverters, which will be far enough from the perimeter of the site to prevent neighbors from hearing it.

Community Energy Solar, which has built some three dozen utility-scale solar projects across the country, has a contract to sell power from the site to the Tennessee Valley Authority. The panels, mounted on a racking system, will track the sun throughout the day, with the power sent through inverters that convert it from direct current to alternating current. The power is then fed to high-voltage lines that will carry it to a nearby substation.

Solar power projects such as the one planned outside Covington, about 35 miles north of Memphis, have proliferated in the last five years. There are more than 600 solar projects operating in the U.S., and eight in Tennessee, that have at least 1 megawatt of capacity, the newspaper reported.

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Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com

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