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Firm seeking to build $35 million solar facility in Buckingham

Virginia Solar LLC is seeking to construct a $35 million solar energy facility at 623 High Rock Road in Buckingham County.

The firm is seeking a special use permit from the county to construct the facility, which would include ancillary support facilities and electrical interconnections with a generating capacity of 20 megawatts of electrical energy to be transmitted on a Dominion distribution line.

Robert and Lillian Johansen own the 210-acre parcel of property that Virginia Solar is seeking to construct the project on, according to county documents.

Before building the facility, which could draw up to 150 workers during construction, the firm would need approval from the county’s board of supervisors.

In terms of employment, the project would have up to three employees every two months on-site for system inspections, vegetation management and preventative maintenance following the construction period. In addition, one employee may be on-site for security at any time, according to the application. There are not expected to be any permanent employees stationed at the site.

According to the permit application, construction could begin in May 2016 with the peak of construction in the summer or fall.

The project would employ solar arrays, panels, photovoltaic modules and inverter stations.

The day-to day-operations of the Firestone Solar Project would “be passive and would make little substantive change to the character of the area,” according to the application. “There would be remote 24/7 monitoring of the facility to ensure the plant is operating safely.”

The firm states in the application that solar-generated electricity is rapidly becoming competitive with other forms of energy generation. “Growing electricity demands in Virginia are not presently met by existing local generation.”

Once facilities are constructed, solar power “will result in a clean, cost-effective, market-dependable source of electricity,” Virginia Solar stated.

The property is currently zoned agricultural.

The project would be subject to real estate taxes but not machinery and tool taxes, according to the application.

“Local suppliers and contractors may get engaged by the general contractor during the construction. The influx of construction workers would provide a steady source of revenue to local hotels and restaurants,” the application noted.

The county’s planning commission and board of supervisors must hold public hearings before the permit is approved.

The project would be designed and constructed in a manner to meet the power quality requirements of Dominion Virginia Power at the point of interconnection.

“Virginia Solar believes this project will create economic value for the county,” Virginia Solar noted, “will not adversely affect the health, safety or welfare of the people residing in the vicinity of the project, nor impair the character of the district in which it is located, nor the value of the properties in the surrounding area.”