Solar cell manufacturing facility passes procedural hurdle despite neighbors’ concerns – WSOC Charlotte

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FORT MILL, S.C. — A controversial solar cell manufacturing facility is one step closer to opening in Fort Mill after securing its construction permit. Friday afternoon, the Department of Health and Environmental Control released its approved permit, allowing the proposed Silfab Solar panel manufacturing facility off Highway 77 to begin construction.

Silfab is a Canadian-based solar panel company. They have multiple two-panel manufacturing facilities in Washington, but in those plants, the facility assembles solar panels from cells it imports. The proposed plant in Fort Mill will be the first plant where the facility will manufacture solar modules and photovoltaic cells to assemble into panels on-site or at its other facilities.

Silfab is currently leasing an existing warehouse on Logistics Lane and plans to modify the facility to accommodate the advanced manufacturing process. The company promises the Fort Mill facility will bring 800 jobs to the region, starting at an hourly wage of $19 and $60,000 for salaried employees.

The synthetic minor permit, released Friday, details the emissions requirements for the factory as well as regulations regarding how the company must handle chemicals the EPA identifies as hazardous air pollutants, such as hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, toluene, and silane. The chemicals will be stored on-site and used in the manufacturing process.

The decision comes despite significant opposition from Fort Mill and York County neighbors. Concerns range from the traffic impact of the facility to its water usage but primarily, many are concerned about how close the facility will be to two York County schools, currently under construction on properties directly adjacent to the Logistics Lane facility.

At a public hearing in October, hundreds of neighbors packed the hearing room voicing their fears about the impact of chemical emissions so close to the schools and the risk of potential chemical leaks.

Neighbors are also skeptical of Silfab’s emission-reduction claims and are worried DHEC will not apply enough regulatory oversight to ensure the company will reliably keep its chemicals out of the air and water.

In response to those comments, DHEC has increased the frequency of several reporting, records, and testing standards.

DHEC has a 30-day public notice period and any affected parties can file for an appeal if they disagree with some or all of the construction permits.

Silfab must submit a risk management plant to the EPA for approval and apply for a separate operating permit once the internal construction at the Logistics Lane facility is complete. The company cannot begin manufacturing until DHEC approves that operating permit.

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