No action taken on solar farm

Published 11:22 am Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors took no action following a public hearing Aug. 14 concerning the Moody Creek Solar Project currently slated for the county.

Board Chairman, Garland Hamlett, Jr. read a statement following several public comments that the board will reconvene in closed session at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 28, to discuss the matter.

Following the closed session, supervisors are set to announce their decision in open session.

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 Devein 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 Highway 360/15 and Route 47.
If approved 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.
It was at the boards 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.”

During Wednesday’s public hearing Witt said that for several months he had been negotiating with Apex and SolUnesco through their attorney and the county attorney “Because laws changed on July 1 of this year and what that new law does is allow an impact of a project like this or any industry to be tied to something in the county and the way this project impacts the county. So once all the language has been worked out, and we disclose what that impact is I think the board will willingly look at this and consider this.” he explained.

Of those who spoke during the public hearing on the Moody Creek Solar project all were in favor except for Richard Lawson, Jr. who noted that Blue Stone Creek was the only thing that separated his property from the solar farm property. “My concern is if anything happens to any of the panels what might happen as far as the waste or whatever is in those panels affecting Bluestone Creek and therefore lowering the property value of the property we own in that area,” said Lawson.

Ken Townsend, who lives in Drakes Branch, addressed the supervisors to say that he was in support of the project as it would help the environment and help move the county forward into the 21st century. “We need to get off coal and fossil fuels, and this is a project that will do that for us,” he said. “We need to come into the 21st century and move this county forward, and the way to do that is to have projects and get businesses in here, and this is one way to do it.”

Keysville resident Joel Cathy noted the recent increase in taxes during his address and support of the project. “As a property owner, we see our tax appraisals go up and then on top of that we see our tax rates go up and I think the county needs to investigate alternative sources of income and I think this project would be a step in that direction,” he added.

Gene Hall Jr., owner of Red Oak Excavating, spoke to tell the board that it’s a significant investment in the county and its growth. “They (solar farms) are focused on educational opportunities to train our local workforce to be employed on a solar farm, thus increasing employment overall, which leads to economic growth,” said Hall. “If solar farms come to our area, it provides great opportunities for local contractors, like myself to do commercial construction, and it keeps my employees working within our surrounding community.”

Francis Hodsoll CEO and Co-founder of SolUnesco was on hand during the public hearing and responded to Phenix/Aspen District Supervisor Donna Fore, who asked, “How much is the power generated from this plant will come back to county residents so they can lower their utility bills?”

Hodsoll explained that there are two aspects to Fore’s question. “One is Dominion Power has found that solar energy is the least expensive form of electricity to be put on the grid in Virginia. So, solar energy can lower rates, but it depends on how this project gets contracted,” said Hodsoll. He went on to say, “There are projects in this region that are likely to go forward, and we believe as an industry that will lower rates for people in the region. But this specific project might get contacted directly to a large energy user.”