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CEP Solar open house

Commonwealth Energy Partners Solar (CEP Solar), which is going through an application process to build a facility in Prince Edward County, held an open house at the Hampden-Sydney Fire department Monday, Sept. 20.

Though there was no formal presentation period, CEP Solar employees were on hand to answer questions and explain the project.

“One of the benefits of solar is the fact that you’re talking about a pretty passive production, so you don’t have a lot of mechanical moving parts,” Tyler Utt of CEP Solar said. “It reduces maintenance, reduces costs and also reduces wear and tear and things that can lead to accidents or fire. So I think that’s part of why solar has been progressing so much.”

Utt emphasized that CEP Solar is currently only in the development phase of coming in; the presentation was part of the process.

He said that it’s also possible that the site will create jobs in the construction phase if all goes to plan, but the finished facility will only need one or two employees for basic maintenance. The CEP Solar project would sell its power to Southside Electric Co-op.

Their proposed project would take up about 0.5% of county land, be able to operate for 30-40 years and generate electricity for up to 3,125 homes, according to literature distributed at the meeting.

“Unlike natural gas, you don’t have to worry about the volatility of prices over the years,” Utt said. Utt said that solar is the least-cost way of producing electricity.

“So, this project would connect homes to the Southside Electric local distribution system. OK, so once the electrons are onto the local distribution system, they can flow to houses in the area. The project would produce about 3,000 homes’ worth of electricity per year, so it’d be about equivalent to half of the electrical demand for the homes and Prince Edward County.

“The project will pay $1,400 per megawatt per year, which would escalate by 10% every five years. So you look at $2 million the project’s paying to the county but it doesn’t really require many services in return. You don’t need sewer, you don’t need new electricity, you don’t need improved roads. It’s a pretty passive operation, but it’s generating that passive income over the full 40 years.”

“I’m very optimistic about your project,” Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors member Jerry Townsend said. “I think it’s a perfect location. It’s less impeding. And again, positive revenue generated over the period of 20 to 30 years to the county could generate a lot of revenue. I think it’s good.”

County Administrator Doug Stanley said that at this time two or three other solar projects are in development but had no further details to share yet.