Solar project could be back on track

Published 9:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2022

Lunenburg County’s first solar project that was tabled just two months ago is back on.

On Thursday, March 10 County Attorney Frank Rennie informed the board of supervisors (BOS) during its monthly meeting that developers of the Red Brick Solar were interested in pursuing the project once again.

The development of the 130 MW facility by Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville and SolUnesco of Reston, has been in the works for close to two years now and would place a solar photovoltaic power plant across 935 acres situated in north-central of the county near the courthouse and about 4 miles southwest of Victoria.

On Thursday, Jan. 13 Rennie told the BOS that developers of Red Brick Solar have “placed things on hold.” “All the additional costs that have come up have affected this project,” Rennie said. “At some point they (developers) will get back to us.”

Red Brick Project Developer Jeff Hammond said transmission system upgrade costs had affected the project causing developers to put the project on hold.

“In short, through no fault of anyone, we had learned of extensive Duke affected transmission system upgrade costs,” said Hammond. “Those costs adversely affect project development.”

In a Monday, March 14 interview Public Engagement Manager Patrick Chilton for Apex said Red Brick is no longer on the hook for any of the upgrade costs.

“The original reason we put this project on hold was because of the extremely high upgrade costs from PJM (the regional grid operator for Virginia) that made this project, or really any project connecting to this line, uneconomical,” Chilton said. “Over the last few months, we’ve been in constant contact with PJM in an effort to get them to review and adjust those upgrade costs. Through several reviews and discussions since the project was put on hold, those upgrade costs ticked further and further down to the point where it was becoming more economical.”

According to Chilton BOS will now need to approve the siting agreement and conditional use permit.

“We will continue to have a dialogue with the BOS and hope to reach an agreement and get these approvals within the next few months.” Chilton said.

Before project developers put a halt to the project the BOS had 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 at its Sept 21 meeting.

In late October, Chilton said developers had 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.

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.

In an October interview Chilton said the company wanted to do its best to meet the county’s request.

“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.

According to Chilton, Red Brick Solar was 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.

“We are working closely with all parties involved to resolve and better understand this issue,” Hammond said. “Our efforts, as they have always been, are to successfully develop Red Brick solar so that it can provide clean, renewable, low cost electricity to Virginia.”