Solar farm presented

Published 11:57 am Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Members of the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors and the Chairman of the Lunenburg Planning Commission heard a presentation, from a representative of a solar farm company, who answered questions and detailed the process of potentially installing a solar farm in the county.

Francis Hodsoll, CEO of SolUnesco, based in Reston, said the company is looking to work with the county in establishing a solar farm.

Hodsoll said the farm could be anywhere from as small as 20 acres to as large as more than a hundred.

According to the SolUncesco website, the company is currently working to develop sites in Greensville County, Orange County, Gloucester County, Mecklenburg County and has operating solar panels in Purcellville and the University of Delaware.

Hodsoll noted potential benefits available for the county.

“Over 20 years, we estimate Mecklenburg will have somewhere (around) an additional million dollars in tax,” Hodsoll said. “In all of our program applications, we put an education management plan in, telling you exactly how we’re going to maintain that buffer … We want to be a good neighbor. We want people to go by our site and say, ‘oh that looks nice.’”

Hodsoll noted that the

company would work to create a buffer, meaning that the solar farm would potentially be behind trees so it would not be visible when driving on roads.

Members of the Board of Supervisors and the public asked questions and expressed concerns relating to the potential solar farm’s impact on the environment and surrounding facilities.

Brown’s Store District Supervisor Mike Hankins asked Hodsoll about potential threats relating to exposure to heavy metals, and potential jobs that could come from building the solar farm.

“If we decide to do something like this, what are we talking about as far as impact on jobs,” Hankins said.

Hodsoll said the farms are typically made from glass, steel, aluminum or silicon, which he described as non-toxic substances.

“It’s a very simple, straightforward technology,” Hodsoll said.

Concerning jobs, Hodsoll said that jobs could increase in the region as companies may expand to include skills relating to solar farm maintenance.

“Really, I think we’re going to see businesses grow up in this region. Contractors that may have been working on one thing, they’re going to expand and do more solar work. So we would expect to see several thousand jobs associated with these projects in this region over the next 4-5 years,” Hodsoll said. He said the company is interested in working with area community colleges to create training programs for the solar farms.

Machinery and Tools Tax will go to county, Hodsoll said, which would make up a majority of any potential increase in revenue that could follow the solar farm.

Thomas Rinehart, in the audience, voiced concern about potential glare from the panels that could interfere with pilots using the nearby airport.

Hodsoll said if the solar farm is within 5 miles of an airport, the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) will study the area for potential problems.

“These systems are designed to absorb light. Sure, along the inverter, something like that, and you’ll have the sun hit a certain way, there will be some glare just like from any building, but there’s not any glare issue,” Hodsoll said.

He noted a fence would be installed and the farm would be remotely monitored to deter vandalism in the area.