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Solar construction set to begin in early 2019

SoVaNow.com / January 03, 2019
Construction of Halifax County solar farms is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2019 and will continue for several years, fueling a burst of near-term building jobs for the local economy.

The county has issued conditional use permits for six solar projects, ranging in size from 218 acres to 900 acres, and the county planning office is anticipating it will soon receive requests for two more projects in various stages of development.

One application, by Hexagon Energy, “is probably coming before the planning board in February,” said ED-1 supervisor J.T. Davis, the Board of Supervisors’ representative on the planning commission.

Before a solar project can be considered by planners, the developer must hold a public information meeting with local landowners. The Hexagon project is anticipated to go in Election District 2, in the Clover area.

Another developer, Carolina Solar, is looking to add another solar generation facility to the company‘s two projects already green-lighted by the county. However, Davis said, “they are not as far along” in winning approval from the regional transmission organization that manages energy sales on the spot market.

Solar developers’ ongoing interest in Halifax County “has been a shot in the arm” for the local tax base, said Davis, with nearly half a million dollars expected to flow in from property taxes on land and equipment.

But the bigger economic impact for Halifax, at least temporarily, may be the number of construction jobs the projects will create. Job estimates run in the hundreds as solar fields are built on an overlapping basis.

Construction is expected to begin on six projects in Halifax County in 2019 or early 2020. They are:

» Crystal Hill Solar, a 65-megawatt facility on three parcels of land totaling 629 acres. The array will be located on the south side of Crystal Hill Road (Rte. 610) near the intersection of Woodchuck Trail. The developer is Urban Grid Solar.

» Alton Post Office, an 80-megawatt solar farm on 502 acres, is also being developed by Urban Grid. This facility will be located along Alton Post Office Road (Rte. 711), north of Hendricks Rd (Rte. 768), east of Mt. Carmel Rd. (Rte. 699).

» Powell’s Creek, a 70-megawatt project on 601 acres, will be built at the intersection of Hendricks Road and Alton Post Office Road. The developer is Carolina Solar.

» Sunnybrook, also being developed by Carolina Solar, will be built on 337 acres in the Scottsburg area, on Clays Mill Road at Vaughn Lane. The facility will have generating capacity of 51 megawatts.

» Water Strider, an 80-megawatt farm, will be built on 1,042 acres in the Nathalie area. The facility will be located near Stage Coach Road, Jenny’s Ruff Trail, and Bull Creek Road. The developer is Cypress Creek

» Foxhound Solar, a 91-megawatt facility, will be located on 1,479 acres in the Clover area, at Green Valley and Mt. Laurel Roads. Longroad Energy is the developer.

With companies looking to break ground on construction in a matter of months, representatives with each development firm recently sat down with members of the county planning office and state resource experts to review best practices for the planting of pollinator plants — the buffer that the county is requiring developers put in to keep their projects out of sight of the neighbors.

With most solar projects, the share of land set aside for installation of solar panels is considerably less than the total project acreage. For instance, the Foxhound project — the county’s largest at 1,479 acres — will have only 589 acres taken up by photovoltaic panels.

The discussion of pollinator plants, led by Bob Glennon, a private lands biologist with Virginia Tech, delved into the finer details of which flowers, shrubs and grasses are best suited to the Southside Virginia climate, at the most affordable prices. Near the end of the session, James Crawford of Urban Grid praised the approach that Halifax County is taking with pollinators, pledging that his firm would be a good neighbor and protect the land where projects are built.

“We want to make sure the environment is protected, we want to make sure we deal with runoff,” said Crawford. “This is really good information. Working with local folks is what we aim to do.”



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