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Potential solar panel center in North Walton County leaves neighbors with questions

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 10:29 PM CST
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG) -

Solar energy is an alternate form of energy that’s gaining popularity as people try to reduce their carbon footprint.

In the Florida panhandle, Gulf Power has already built four solar energy centers, and wants to build one on 867 acres in North Walton County.

“Our solar energy centers generate enough energy to power about 15,000 homes, and the energy that’s being generate is zero emissions energy,” said Kimberly Blair, a spokesperson for Gulf Power.

Blair said the solar energy center would create around 250 jobs to build it.

“There (will) be about 300,000 solar panels, and the emissions free energy that it generates is equivalent to removing about 26,000 passenger cars from the road annually,” said Blair.

Paxton resident David Herring lives next to the property Gulf Power wants to build on, and said the project will hurt the community.

“Walton County’s whole thing is the way it was developed and everything was large scale agriculture, so we’ve got to keep agriculture in the state of Florida,” said Herring.

Debbie Heard adds the solar energy center could potentially impact all of Walton County.

“This could spell a total environmental disaster for Walton County, for our water table, our aquifer system, and all of our freshwater into our coastal dune lakes and into the Gulf,” said Heard.

Walton County residents said they are also concerned with the possibility of groundwater pollution, and property values going down.

When those concerns were raised, Gulf Power said they have a plan for runoff, and have not seen evidence of declining property values near any of their other centers.

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