The Spotsylvania County Planning Commission is slated to hold public hearings on special-use permits for a large solar facility in the western part of the county.

Planning Director Wanda Parrish said last week commissioners plan to hold hearings for Sustainable Power Group’s three proposals on Dec. 5.

All of the permits are part of the same project by Utah-based sPower, which wants to install 1.8 million solar panels on sections of a more than 6,000-acre site in the rural area dotted with nearby neighborhoods.



Parrish said staff has produced a report on the proposal and will share it with the commissioners.

As they have at other county meetings, people who live near the proposed solar facility spoke during Wednesday’s public comment time and asked the commissioners to consider a list of concerns they have with the project.

One resident, Sean Fogerty, presented an analysis that found the proposal was “inconsistent” with the county’s comprehensive land-use plan. The primary problem, he said, is the industrial use of such a large tract of forested land. The property has long been owned by a timber company that is now clearing out many of the trees on the land.

Some of the residents’ key concerns revolve around potential impacts to the environment, safety and property values. Potential water impacts and toxic chemicals that might be ingredients in the solar panels have been a key focus of critics.

Last month, the Utah-based sPower said it would pay $75,000 for a consultant to analyze the proposal and address issues raised by residents.

In a letter to the county, local attorney Charles Payne said sPower understands “that our client’s SUP applications are large in scope and complexity, and thus the third-party consultants are necessary to review our various studies ... and to address the questions raised by certain citizens in the community.”

The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Supervisors will have the final say on the proposal.

Despite not having county approval for its project, the renewable energy company has already struck deals with major companies and the University of Richmond to sell the proposed plant’s solar power.

The solar electricity those companies purchase would be fed into the energy grid and they would be given credit for their usage.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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