• 64°

Second solar facility proposed

A public hearing is set for a proposed $35 million solar project in Buckingham County.

The proposal consists of a 20-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generating facility that could power about 3,300 homes, creating 13 jobs in the county.

The Buckingham County Planning Commission will hold a hearing for the special use permit (SUP), which is being sought by Buckingham II Solar LLC, on Monday at 7 p.m.

If approved, this would be the second solar facility in Buckingham County. Last June, county supervisors approved a SUP the construction of a $35 million solar energy facility at 623 High Rock Road in Buckingham. Virginia Solar LLC, which owns Buckingham II Solar, the permit applicant, sought last year’s permit for the first facility.

“This application is made by the same individuals as the first application, but under a different entity name. This request, if approved, will be adjacent to the previously approved solar facility,” County Zoning and Planning Administrator Rebecca Cobb said. “The applicant stated in the May meeting that the previous facility will be connected to one transformer at the Buckingham Substation and this facility is planned to be connected at the other transformer within the same substation. According to the applicant, this facility will have the capability to power approximately 100 additional homes as compared to the total number powered in the previous request.”

If approved, the facility will be located on approximately 295 acres on five parcels consisting of approximately 470 acres, according to the permit application.

The facility could span across properties owned by Robert and Lilian Johansen, the Katherine J. Firestone Living Trust, Ryan D. Johnson and Blue Rock Resources.

“The project will use proven technology which has been used throughout the U.S.,” project leaders said in the application. “The solar arrays and ancillary equipment will occupy approximately 225 acres of the 295 acres subject to the SUP. The PV modules produce low-voltage direct current (DC) electrical power which is collected and delivered to the inverter and transformer stations located throughout the site where it is converted into medium voltage alternating current (AC). The power from the inverter stations will be collected from across the site to the point of interconnection where it will interconnect with the Dominion Virginia Power distribution line through a pole-mounted device. By interconnecting with the distribution lines, the project will help meet local electrical needs first, with the excess then flowing to the overall grid.”

According to the application, the perimeter of the project will be surrounded by a 6-foot tall chain link fence.

“The design, installation and operations of the facility will comply with all applicable local, state and national electrical standards and codes that ensure the safety and protections of local residents and the public at large. The proposed project will not result in any population increase and there will be no unduly detrimental or injurious damage to property or improvements in the vicinity. The project is situated on farmland within the A-1 (Zoning) District. The surrounding properties are all zoned A-1. Solar electric generation plants and associated facilities are permitted with a special use permit within the A-1 (Zoning) District in Buckingham County. The proposed use will not impair the integrity and character of the land use district. After construction, the day-to-day operations of the project will be passive and will make little substantive change to the character of the area.”

According to the application for the SUP, the facility will be monitored remotely on a 24/7 basis to ensure the project is operating properly. “The project will be constructed in a single phase with a proposed 35-year life. The project will produce enough electricity on an annual basis to power approximately 3,300 typical homes.”

Project leaders anticipate that a maximum of 260 workers on-site for the project during the construction period, “and it will likely include some local suppliers and contractors. The peak of construction is currently planned for late summer/fall 2018. The influx of construction workers will provide a steady source of revenue to local hotels and restaurants,” according to the permit application.

Buckingham II Solar estimates the project to be valued at approximately $35 million.

“A majority of the cost is associated with the purchase of the equipment for the project,” project leaders said. “During development and construction, the project will provide direct and indirect benefits to Buckingham County and support local jobs throughout that period. Based on work done by Chmura Economics and Analytics for Dominion on the Scott I (project) in Powhatan County, it is estimated that Buckingham II Solar will generate for Buckingham County 13 direct jobs, one indirect job and one induced job with $1.3 million in economic impact in the year the project is built. During post-construction operation, the project will contribute personal income to workers and the landowner.”

According to the permit application, “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. The majority of the cost of solar power is realized during facility construction; operating costs are low and fuel is free. The demand for renewable energy is growing at a rapid rate. The result is that once facilities are constructed, solar power will result in a clean, cost-effective, market-dependable source of electricity.”

“The inverter stations will be approximately 12-feet tall, and the poles at the point of interconnection will be the same as normal electrical distribution poles. Within the project area all electrical lines will be buried excepting those crossing creeks, wetlands and the main line to the point of interconnection,” according to the application. “The applicant proposes to include a 50-foot buffer around the perimeter of the project where it is adjacent to property not owned by the same land owner at the time of approval. Within the buffer, in areas where there is not at least 15 feet of native timber remaining on the project parcel, a single row of evergreens will be planted within the 50-foot setback.”

Construction could begin as early as the second quarter of 2018, project leaders said.

Twenty-six voluntary conditions are suggested by project leaders, which address height of the facility, traffic during construction, the decommissioning process, obtaining building permits, fencing, lighting during construction and post-construction, buffers, setbacks and noise.