Piney Grove Solar project gets approval in Prince Edward

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Estelle Jones saw a lot of benefits for the project. Speaking to Prince Edward supervisors during their Tuesday, June 11 meeting, she asked officials to approve the Piney Grove Solar farm as it would help her family. The Jones family farm would be part of the land purchased to be used for solar panels. 

“I see benefit in it for the county as far as raising tax dollars, providing jobs (and) providing another form of energy,” Jones said. “It would provide a little bit more support for our family farm without us physically having to work the land ourselves, land which is now just growing up and not being used for anything else.” 

The project in question would stretch 170.8 acres on Taylor Drive in Rice, about a half mile from its intersection with Miller Lake Road. A total of 73.1 acres would be used for the 8-megawatt project, with an estimated 52.3 acres used for solar panels and infrastructure. That way the rest of the land could act as a buffer. Energy would then connect with Southside Electric’s nearby Moran substation. 

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“The applicant said the facility will not be seen or heard, and will not impact adjacent properties,” said Prince Edward County Planner Robert Love. “The facility will not generate noise, light, dust, odor or vibrations.” 

And Jones wasn’t the only one to speak in favor of the plan. 

“It looks to me like this is a positive thing for the county,” said Edward Fowlkes. He and his family own another part of the land that would be used for the solar farm. 

“We have parcels of land that aren’t doing as much as they could do and they certainly aren’t doing much for the county until we harvest the timber, which is decades,” Folks said. “With a solar farm, you get yearly revenue share, you get tools and equipment tax, which you don’t have now, and other benefits.” 

Fowlkes added that he and his family didn’t just agree to the project at random. They looked at four or five solar proposals before going with CEP Solar LLC’s offer. 

The deal with Piney Grove Solar

As part of the deal, CEP Solar agrees to annual soil testing at no less than three locations on the property. Those tests will be done to identify any “priority pollutant 13 metals” that had seeped into the soil, including things like arsenic, antimony, cadmium, chromium, copper, zinc, lead, mercury, nickel and silver. CEP Solar also has to do an evaluation of road conditions after construction is finished. That includes, at the company’s expense, “a plan for repairing any damage caused to the public roads” going to and from the facility. By that we’re talking about Piney Grove Road, from its intersection with US 460, to Miller Lake Road, to Taylor Drive. 

The company also can’t just sit and ‘land bank’ the property. Construction has to begin within a three year period. If that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, the group can come back to supervisors and ask for one extension, getting an extra year to begin work. 

After company officials agreed to those terms, supervisors approved the project by a 6-2 vote. Harrison Jones and David Emert were in opposition. Emert said while he voted no, he appreciated the work CEP Solar has done in addressing concerns. 

“I would like to say to the community that they have done their due diligence and come to the board and everything else and done what they said they were going to do thusfar,” Emert said, telling CEP officials he expects them to continue to do so.