Board silent on solar project

Published 3:24 pm Saturday, November 20, 2021

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Years into a solar development project for Lunenburg County, developers are still at a standstill with county officials.

Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville and SolUnesco of Reston, the developers of a 130 MW facility destined for Lunenburg, are waiting and negotiating with county officials to have their Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Red Brick Solar approved.

At the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) Sept. 21 meeting, the Board voted to remove from the table any further consideration of the Red Brick solar application to allow further discussion of a siting agreement with Red Brick solar.

In late October, Public Engagement Manager Patrick Chilton said developers of Red Brick have been negotiating with the county for 14 months over additional financial benefits the county would like and was hoping to hear a decision by at least the November BOS meeting.

That decision never came during the Thursday, Nov. 11, BOS meeting.

In October and again on Monday, Nov. 15, Director of Planning and Economic Development Taylor Newton said, “At this time, it’s still under review by the county attorney.”

The siting agreement legislation intends to give the local government the opportunity to address specific community needs and allow the solar project developer to help address those needs outside of any taxes or other fees paid by such a project.

The siting agreement may include terms and conditions including mitigation of any impacts of such solar facility; financial compensation to address the locality’s capital needs as set out in the locality’s capital improvement plan, its current fiscal budget or its fiscal funds balance policy; or assistance with deploying broadband in the locality.

“Lunenburg County understandably wants to maximize the financial benefit they will see from this, and we are doing our best to meet their requests while ensuring that this project is still economically viable,” Chilton said.

Presently, according to Chilton, Red Brick Solar is offering to pay Lunenburg County an additional $1.7 million in local real estate taxes and $12 million in revenue share and cost savings over the project’s anticipated 40-year life.

During the Thursday, Nov. 11, BOS meeting, SolUnesco CEO Francis Hodsoll addressed members, reminding them how long the Red Brick project has been in the works and all the requirements that have been met.

Hodsoll said talks of the solar project began in the fall of 2017.

“Many things have changed over the last couple of years,” Hodsoll said. “Construction costs have gone up, ordinances have changed in Lunenburg County, and increasing costs, but we recognize that the county is looking to ensure that the citizens of this county are getting a good deal. And along those lines, my company, SolUnesco, after a lot of discussion with Apex, we’re committed to providing additional funding to the county.”

Hodsoll said that in addition to county funding, the developers would underwrite a community project in the form of a ballpark for which they are committing to providing the vast majority of the funding.

“With that funding, those two buckets of money, money upfront that you’re requesting and money for the community, we’re more than meeting the requests that you all have made for upfront money,” Hodsoll said. “So we hope that that will kind of push us in the right place and  allow us to move forward.”

According to Hodsoll, the project which developers propose to construct and operate located on 21 individual parcels of property is ready to go under construction.

The project would place a solar photovoltaic power plant across 935 acres situated in north-central Lunenburg County, near the courthouse and about four miles southwest of Victoria.