WITH over 43 companies in Virginia committed to powering their operations with 100 percent renewable energy, and 21 of the state’s 50 largest employers working to use more clean energy, renewable energy—such as solar power—is the future of energy production in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Solar projects are being developed all across the state, and the country, to help power these needs.
It’s not just companies that want solar. It’s residents too. In a recent public opinion poll conducted in Virginia, voters overwhelmingly agreed that the commonwealth should pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy to lower dependence on fossil fuels and improve energy efficiency.
Specifically, over 71 percent of voters want to put more emphasis on solar energy.
So we were surprised to hear that sPower’s Spotsylvania Solar Energy Center project is seeing so much opposition in Spotsylvania County.
As conservatives, we believe we need all types of energy in this state, but that we also need to begin to shift toward more clean, renewable energy production. Solar is a key component of this.
That’s why today there is over 600 megawatts of existing solar power in the state, and over 2,300 megawatts proposed or under development – many of which are bordered by residences, just like the proposed project in Spotsylvania.
That’s why communities like Spotsylvania should follow best practices to mitigate the impact the project will have on neighboring properties.
Contrary to what the opposition to sPower’s project continues to say, solar is incredibly safe and reliable.
Constituents in Spotsylvania have shared concerns about chemicals in the solar panels, specifically cadmium telluride, leaching into the ground when the solar panels break. But the reality is that solar panels are like car windshields – when they break, they spiderweb. The panels are then promptly removed by a worker who just has to wear gloves to protect their hands from the glass.
The only time cadmium telluride has ever been shown to leach was in a laboratory simulation with 5,000 degree burning temperatures (the average wildfire burns at 1,100 degrees). Solar panels aren’t going to combust, and the electrical systems connected within the panels have safeguards to immediately shut down the electrical current if something were to malfunction.
Another misconception is that this project will raise the cost of energy and local taxes. Solar is becoming more and more cost competitive as the development of solar has increased and technology has improved.
A recent report from Lazard shows how the costs of producing electricity is changing. The cost of producing utility-scale solar has dropped 86 percent since 2009.
And this project will have no impact on local taxes. The energy produced by the Spotsylvania Solar Energy Center will connect to a substation and go into the wholesale market.
Conversely, Virginia is a regulated state, so energy rates for consumers getting electricity from companies such as Dominion and Rappahannock Electric Co-op are regulated by the State Corporation Commission.
Private solar projects do not raise local taxes. Instead, this project will bring new revenue to the county—$600,000 annually from property taxes, as well as other benefits, such as solar panels for county buildings to save on electricity costs.
Solar projects are also environmentally friendly. In regards to this project specifically, the erosion and storm water measures exceed state and federal standards. And while the company is acquiring 6,000 acres, over 2,000 of the acres will be conserved, helping to make sure the project fits with Spotsylvania’s rural feel.
This project is good economic development, not just for the state but for Spotsylvania County as well. It shows forward thinking and readiness for more technology development in the area.
Proximity to Northern Virginia, where so much technology investment is already going, makes the greater Fredericksburg area an ideal place for future projects. And as technology grows in Virginia, and more Virginia companies look to power their operations with renewable energy, so does the need for solar power grow.
This project is a huge opportunity for Spotsylvania County to generate new revenue, lead in the renewable energy space, and bring a good corporate partner to the area. In our view, this a very positive opportunity for Spotsylvania and the commonwealth as a whole.
Chris West is the executive director of Conservatives for Clean Energy, an organization helping to lead the conversation about the economic benefits of clean and renewable energy sources to Virginia’s economy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.