Solar farm hearing set

Published 8:16 am Thursday, July 25, 2019


Kathy Liston

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on Aug. 14 concerning the Moody Creek Solar Project currently slated for the county.

It was at the board’s December 2018 meeting that County Administrator Daniel Witt told members that “SolUnesco and Apex have submitted a Conditional Use Permit to discuss the application. It is estimated the permit process will take 4-6 months.”

The August public hearing is to hear concerns on the Conditional Use Permit.

The permit application from Moody Creek Solar, LLC is for the construction of a 150 megavolt utility-scale solar facility (equivalent to 25,000 homes worth of energy). The proposed site, owned by Devin Logging Company/John A. Devin, Jr. & Armistead Tune Devin, is located on Route 47, Crafton’s Gate Highway, approximately 1.4 miles east of the traffic light at the intersection of Highways 360/15 and Route 47.

The project will be constructed on property that is approximately 1,655 acres in size.

The solar project will be connected to the existing 115kV Pamplin to Chase City transmission line that crosses the project property and will include the installation of solar panel arrays, inverters, electrical transmission lines, an electric substation, other electrical equipment, gravel access roads, and fencing to secure the project area.
In total, approximately 555,000 solar panels will be installed after all project phases are completed.

Although the motion to hold the public hearing passed unanimously during the supervisors July 10 meeting before the vote, citizen Kathy Liston addressed members during the public comment period to express her concerns.
“It is my understanding that the counties that met at the Virginia Association of Counties (VACO) meeting are looking to pause the approval of any permits, which is what I heard that they are asking the counties that have pending projects to do,” said Liston. “That would include the Moody Creek project that is pending here. They’re asking that we pause it until after the next session of the general assembly to see if they can get the legislation changed.”

During her address, Liston also pointed out that she was aware that County Administrator Daniel Witt was, “attempting to negotiate a side deal for Charlotte County which seems to be at odds with what this coalition is attempting to do.”

“The coalition is attempting to put a halt on everything for the moment till after the general assembly meets next year and you’re a part of that coalition, you’re a part of that inner group. But at the same time, you’re trying to cut a side deal which seems to be at odds,” Liston said directing her comments to Witt.

Witt did not respond to Liston during the meeting, but when asked by The Charlotte Gazette to clarify Liston’s accusations he said to keep the Moody Creek project moving forward, he had been meeting with Sol Unesco to possibly work out an agreement that would benefit the County. “Currently there is an 80 percent tax abatement on the machinery and tools tax that is not given to any other utility but mandated by the state. It was thought the legislature might deal with it this past session, but they didn’t,” he explained. “In the end, any agreement would be brought back to the board for consideration and approval.”

According to Witt, currently solar panels would be taxed as machinery and tools but at the real estate rate 62 cents per $100 of the assessed value with an 80 percent abatement. The standard machinery and tools tax for the county is $3 per assessed $100 value.

“These solar companies who are making millions are going to get huge tax breaks,” said Liston. “So, I’m asking that we pause on any vote until after the next general assembly. I am not against solar … there are pros and cons, and I am not against it at all. I am just again asking we pause it; we can always revisit it.”

Director of Local Government Policy for VACO, Joe Lerch, said during a June 27 Seminar on Utility-Scale Solar and the impact of solar and local taxes that action by the General Assembly in 2016 to mandate an 80 percent reduction on the local property tax applied to solar equipment has resulted in localities receiving significantly less revenue over the life of a project.

Lerch also compared applying the actual machinery and tools tax to the real estate tax and the difference it makes to the tax revenue of specific counties.

Currently, for projects higher than 25 megawatts in size, state law mandates that the solar equipment be taxed at a rate no greater than the local real estate tax. By comparison, wind turbines are taxed at the machinery and tools rate.