The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a special-use permit for the largest of three sections of the complex and controversial solar facility proposal that has been a hot-button issue for more than a year.

The supervisors voted 5–2 to approve at least one section of the 500 megawatt solar facility. Supervisors Paul Trampe and David Ross voted against the SUP. The board will take up two other special-use permits as part of the project at Thursday’s meeting.

Utah-based Sustainable Power Group applied for three special-use permits in 2017 to build a massive, $615 million solar facility on a more than 6,300-acre property. The company, also known as sPower, wants to install approximately 1.8 million solar panels on several tracts in the Wilderness area.

“We finally made the finish line,” sPower CEO Ryan Creamer said after the meeting. “It’s gonna be an amazing thing ... a marquee project.”

The solar farm, the largest such proposal in the U.S., would send energy into the current grid. The company already has agreements to sell the energy to major high-tech companies Apple and Microsoft, as well as the University of Richmond.

Residents around the proposed site have aggressively opposed the project and formed groups in response to the proposal. They have said the project is too big, includes too many unknown health and environmental risks and is a financial gamble for the county and residents, among other issues.

The company in turn has countered the citizens with experts who deem the project safe and a good project for the county.

Supporters for both sides packed the meeting room in anticipation of a vote. Instead, they spent much of the meeting listening to supervisors hash out details of conditions for the project and waiting for county staff to then make the changes so the board could continue debating the proposal.

The county’s Planning Commission recommended that the two larger permits be denied and approval of the smallest one. The county’s planning department recommended the supervisors approve all three SUPs, but with many strict conditions.

The supervisors spent much of the meeting making changes to various conditions before voting on the measure.

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Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436 sshenk@freelancestar.com

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