Seabrook Solar Farm on US Highway 21 is a land protection milestone in South Carolina, the first conservation easement in the state on a designated solar energy generation facility. For at least 80 years, the 635-acre property has epitomized the rich history of truck farming in northern Beaufort County. Large-scale agriculture operations provided vegetables, corn, wheat, soybeans, tomatoes and watermelons for shipment to market. The Seabrook Solar Farm is adjacent to and in close proximity to other open space, agricultural and timber tracts in northern Beaufort County, the preservation of which ensures stability of rural land uses.
“Our landscape in Beaufort County is changing and how we think about land use is changing too. What was once a tomato farm will now help support the growing clean energy industry,” comments Kristin Williams, Executive Director of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust. “Our goal is to ensure that over the long-term, these sites vulnerable to residential, commercial and industrial development are permanently protected. The support of our long-term land use goals by the solar company’s owners and operators is extraordinary.”
The conservation easement protects the conservation values of the property and allows for the site to be converted back to agricultural, timber production, or other conservation uses, if the use for solar ends. Additionally, a vegetative buffer along US Highway 21 will maintain the natural viewshed of the well-traveled road.
The company also worked closely with the ACE Basin Task Force, a group consisting of private landowners, governmental entities, and conservation interests to understand local perspectives and address concerns. This project is a great example of collaboration and shows that conservation and economics are not mutually exclusive.