No decision on Randolph Solar

Published 8:00 am Thursday, June 9, 2022

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The Board of Supervisors took no action on the much-debated and, at times, highly charged Randolph Solar project public hearing held on June 1.

The two-and-a-half-hour public hearing was held to hear comments from citizens both in opposition and in support for the project’s conditional use permit.

Following the meeting, a special called meeting was set for Monday, June 13, for a closed session with the BOS and legal counsel to discuss a siting agreement for the project.

The siting agreement may include terms and conditions, including mitigation of any impacts of such solar project or energy storage project; financial compensation to the host locality to address capital needs set out in the capital improvement plan adopted by the host locality, current fiscal budget of the host locality, or fiscal fund balance policy adopted by the host locality; or assistance by the applicant in the deployment of broadband.

“We are grateful to Dominion Energy and to the supporters of Randolph Solar for their presence at the public hearing on June 1, as well as for the letters of support and public comments made,” said Randolph Solar Developer SolUnesco CEO Francis Hodsoll. “We are also very grateful to the county staff, Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors, who have reviewed and engaged with the project for the past two years. Our work together has resulted in revisions to the Conditions placed on the project, which, alongside the Charlotte County ordinance, provide perhaps the most comprehensive list of Conditions on any solar project in the state. We now look forward to finalizing the discussion on the tax revenues for the project.”

During the public hearing, a question was raised about the $246 million voluntary payment SolUnesco has offered to the County, which is the amount the project will pay in excess of the County’s required Revenue Share.

“We’re happy to clarify that the Revenue Share payments over 35 years will total $68 million,” Hodsoll said. “What the $246 million includes is the upfront $20 million, the benefit of the 2% escalator, and the phasing of the project construction over five years.”

Hodsoll said the speaker was correct that over 35 years, the average revenue is expected to be $7 million per year.

“We have provided the details of these payments to the county in the project’s siting agreement, which is currently being reviewed along with the payment schedule,” Hodsoll said.

On May 3, the planning commission voted 6 to 3 to recommend approval of the application with the 44 conditions as presented and one additional condition related to hiring a project manager despite the County’s consultants; the Berkley Group’s overall recommendation was to deny the permit.

One issue The Berkley Group had was with the size and density of the project.

In the summer of 2020, the Board of Supervisors voted 6 to 1 to approve a zoning amendment change that will allow for more density in the construction of utility-scale solar farms in a five-mile radius.

Before that change, the County’s zoning ordinance limited utility-scale solar density to 3% in any given five-mile radius.

SolUnesco’s expressed interest in constructing a utility-scale solar facility exceeded that previous density in the Randolph area.

The BOS could possibly make a decision on the conditional use permit during a meeting on July 5.