FORUM2: Solar power plant is not in Spotsylvania's best interest

A Dominion Power solar project in Louisa County.

DECISION time arrives for Spotsylvania’s solar facility. The Board of Supervisors will soon vote sPower’s proposal up or down.

What should be basis of their decision?

Very simply, the decision must be to do what is best for Spotsylvania County.

We should not be concerned about the Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States , much less the world.

Renewable energy is a current hot topic, but unless there are other benefits, taxpayers of Spotsylvania should not be asked to invest further in solar energy. As it is, we will be paying higher electricity rates in the future as a consequence of additional expensive solar power going into the grid.

The basic factor, which must always be kept in mind, is that future tax revenue to the county will be reduced if the solar facility is adopted. There will simply be less taxable property in the future on which taxes can be assessed if the solar plant is built.

County expenditures will go up over the years, and tax revenues will go down as compared with having no solar plant.

Reasonable people can disagree about the magnitude of the reduced future tax revenues, but nobody has ever claimed that the county’s tax base will increase as a result of having a 500-megawatt plant.

At one point, sPower did promise to make annual payments of $600,000 per year in lieu of taxes, but that offer seems to have disappeared for any number of reasons.

Put plainly: Future tax revenues are going down, not up, if the project goes forward. A current estimate is that this $600 million project will only generate some $8 million over its lifetime and, as shown below, our current incremental expenses greatly exceed that.

There is going to be a shortfall in taxes and an increase in electricity rates if this project is approved.

Are there any offsetting benefits to Spotsylvania County? Let’s look at what sPower has been asserting will be the “benefits” the solar plant would bring to the county:

“800–1,000 local employees during construction.” It is our understanding that sPower’s contractors have already been identified and the vast majority of the workers will be from out of state. Can sPower guarantee hiring even 500 local employees for the two-year construction period?

“Investing another $25 million in county priorities over the life of the project.” These are unenforceable promises and any change in sPower management could easily void them.

“Project could also enhance the County’s marketability, including new technology and other companies.” There is zero evidence that any such investments have accrued to any other solar project in other communities. The fact is that the sPower electricity output is 100 percent pre-sold and thus totally unavailable for any future high-tech companies which might locate here.

On the other side of the ledger:

Spotsylvania will have to pay some $4 million to complete the water hookup.

Spotsylvania will pay some $8 million for a new fire station and incur annual costs of over $1 milllion per year to man the new station.

During the 2-year construction period, traffic and noise will be such that residential properties adjacent to the construction simply will not sell; property assessments should reflect this.

sPower originally promised to construct a round-about to minimize traffic congestion, but this promise vanished into thin air. Traffic congestion, already serious at rush hours, will now extend for the entire day.

While sPower will post a bond for future decommissioning expenses, we estimate there could be a $30 million to $40 million shortfall based on the company’s $10 million proposal and our estimate of $40 million to $50 million for actual decommissioning.

The conclusion is clear: Supervisors interested in the future of Spotsylvania should turn down this project and vote “No”.

Alfred M. King is a retired financial analyst who lives in the Fawn Lake area of Spotsylvania County.

Load comments