The city’s Crabtree Valley area may be home to a mall, restaurants and apartment complexes, but there’s one type of business it lacks: a solar farm.
With residential and commercial development taking off in the busy section of Glenwood Avenue, it might seem odd to reserve 10 acres for solar panels. That’s what Hobby Properties plans to do with a vacant tract behind the Holiday Inn on Century Drive.
The onetime landfill site features hilly terrain and flood plains, so Hobby doesn’t expect developers to buy up the lots anytime soon. “This is probably one of the last pieces that will be developed” around Crabtree, said Hobby’s John Holmes. “As an interim use, we thought a solar farm just made sense to us.”
Hobby is contracting with PowerSecure Solar to install panels expected to generate 1.3 megawatts of electricity, which will be sold to Duke Energy Progress. That’s enough to power about 1,300 homes.
The firm expects the solar panels to stay in place for about 15 years. At that point, Hobby expects to put the land back on the market for developers eager to build on one of the final slices of land near the mall.
Holmes said he hasn’t gotten any negative feedback about the project, which would be visible from the 176-room hotel that towers above it. “They’re pretty low profile,” he said. “They sit four feet off the ground ... it’s really unobstrusive.”
The solar project isn’t the first time Hobby has sought a short-term use for its vacant land. North of downtown, the company provided a lot for the Raleigh City Farm, a community gardening project. “It really created a lot of interest over in the Person Street area,” Holmes said. “It was a similar mindset: an interim use of vacant land.”
Hobby will go before the Raleigh Board of Adjustment and city council next month to seek a variance permit. The project needs an exemption to requirements that construction take place a certain distance from the street. If city leaders approve, the solar farm could be generating power by July 31, Holmes said.