Supervisors consider new Cumberland County solar projects

Published 1:16 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

Supervisors have three new Cumberland County solar projects up for discussion. During a solar workshop, the board learned more about what these three projects will involve.

There are currently two Jamerson Solar projects. Amy Seipp, the principal engineer at Accupoint Survey & Design representing New Energy Equity, gave a presentation for the plan for both projects.

What is community solar?

Both of these solar farms will be community solar projects. This means that once the solar farm is built, it will be connected to the power grid and people can choose to be a part. Those who choose to opt in are expected to save around 10% on their utility bills. If participants change their minds, there is no cancellation fee to stop.

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Since there is no installation of panels, all people need to do to be a part is to sign up. This will be available for residents in Cumberland County and those directly adjacent to the county and serviced by Dominion Energy.

“If you are someone who rents your home and you don’t have control of it you can participate,” said Seipp. “As long as you pay the utility bill you can choose to be a subscriber.”

This project will be a three-megawatt facility with a tracking system. This means that one panel will stay in place and the others will move to follow the sun. The facility will take up 21 of the 28-acre land. Once it’s done there is a decommissioning plan for the panel to be removed and the land to go back to how it was.

For the deduction, it comes off the utility bill. According to Seipp, the facility will not regulate electricity given out as some do. Participants do not need to be afraid of rolling outages or limits like some areas have seen when it comes to alternative energy.

The estimated economic impact of the facility is expected to be $3 million over the 30 years this solar facility is expected to be active.

More Cumberland County solar projects

The second project has most of the same points when it comes to how the solar facility will work. This one will be a bit bigger as a four-megawatt facility that will have an impact of $4 million over 30 years. This means that both projects will have a combined impact of $7 million. This facility will be located “a good distance” off Route 60 with the first project just southwest of this one.

If approved, work could start in the first quarter of 2024 and be finished in six to nine months. This timing greatly depends on a conditional use permit and approval from the Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Supervisors consider distribution farm

Supervisors will also consider a ‘distribution farm’ for solar at their meeting this month. This one will be located in District 5 with the access road on Hauschild Drive by Green Front Distribution Center and Gemini Inc. in Farmville. This facility will be 10 megawatts and good for 40 years. It is on 144 acres but only a third of that will be used for panels with the rest of the land available in case of future use.

This will be a distribution solar farm, which is not like a community solar project like the other two. Those who want to participate have to specifically sign up. The company has already sent out packets and reached out to adjacent landowners of the plot to answer questions and receive feedback.

“We definitely encourage the community to come forward with any questions or concerns they may have,” said Alex Gharbo, the project manager with Commonwealth Energy Partners (CEP).

This one could also start in 2024 and take six to 12 months to complete. They also have a decommissioning plan that follows the county ordinance.

At the end of the presentations, the board held a closed meeting with no action taken after.