The Spotsylvania County Planning Commission on Wednesday evening will address for the third time a special-use permit for a proposed solar power facility that has drawn opposition from nearby residents.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Marshall Center.

Following two packed public hearings on the proposal, the meeting promises to draw a big crowd of proponents and opponents.

The county’s planning department has already filed its recommendation, and that is to approve the project if the applicant, Sustainable Power Group Inc., agrees to a list of conditions.

The planning commission already has held two public hearings on three special-use applications for the massive facility. The facility would be built on three tracts, taking up about half of the more than 6,300 acre property in western Spotsylvania County. The public hearings have been closed.

Groups of residents who live around the proposed facility have questioned the project’s impacts. Some have argued against the project outright, criticizing the Utah-based corporation and its plan to build such a large facility near residents.

Sustainable Power Group, also known as sPower, has said the project will be safe and have positive impacts for the county, and has presented its case to the county.

The facility would include the installation of 1.8 million solar panels on three tracts of the property. The 500 megawatt 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 and the University of Richmond.

The Board of Supervisors will have the final say on the project, which will undergo another public hearing before any final vote.

The county’s planning department wrote in its report that the conditions it set are needed for the project to meet special-use standards and to coincide with the comprehensive plan.

Yet the staff report says there are “reservations about the size/scale of the facility and cautions that some conditions intended to mitigate impacts may change the project scope.” The conditions may limit how much land can be “disturbed,” which could lead to more time to build the facility.

The report adds that the “majority of health, safety, and welfare concerns with the project and the greatest potential for negative impacts on the community are during the construction phase. Once established, the solar energy facility should be a safe, clean, quiet neighbor.”​

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​Scott Shenk: 540.374.5436 

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