The application for a 500- megawatt solar industrial complex by an out-of-state solar company, sPower of Utah, is now in the hands of the Spotsylvania County Planning Commission, and after that, it will be before the Board of Supervisors.
As proposed, it would be the fifth-largest such power plant in the United States, right in the middle of rural and historic Spotsylvania County.
The sPower plant would consume 10 square miles of designated forest lands. That is half the size of Manhattan, and larger than the entire city of Fredericksburg. The four larger solar power plants are located in the desert of the U.S. Southwest, far from any residential areas.
The project is just plain wrong for Spotsylvania on several levels.
First, there is the intermittent unreliability of solar power around the country and the world. The solar industry is a subsidized scheme between government and corporate titans that has little impact on the grid or energy supply for the communities where these monstrosities reside. And now this industry wants to inflict its latest mega-experiment and boondoggle on Spotsylvania.
That’s right: we are to be the East Coast guinea pigs for a massive government/corporate “feel-good” project that will harm our community—for virtually nothing in return.
Wherever solar goes, trouble follows: higher electricity prices, instability in the power grid, rolling brownouts and blackouts, higher taxes.
Entire countries—such as Germany, Australia, Denmark, Spain, Canada, China, and Japan—are experiencing the severely negative impacts of intermittent, unreliable solar and wind power. States such as New York and California continue down the path of ever-higher “renewable targets,” and their citizens now pay the highest electricity prices in the country.
Next, there is the potential for serious, irreparable harm to our environment, to Spotsylvania’s historic landscapes and vistas, and our county infrastructure.
Here’s an outline of the potential issues that were carefully researched by Concerned Citizens of Spotsylvania County:
- Severe damage to the aquifer supplying water to thousands of homes;
- Toxic cadmium contained in 1.8 million solar panels leaching into our water supply;
- Erosion and runoff caused by the clearing of more than 3,500 acres of trees;
- The staggering cost of the future decommissioning of the site;
- Loss forever of prime “agricultural/forestall” land that will never be restored;
- Likely increase in taxes on Spotsylvania residents to support this project;
- Likely decrease in property values of thousands of homes that would now border a massive power plant.
Finally, there is the inevitable politics of this project. SPower will try to bribe its way into our county by providing funds for a few projects here and there to make our supervisors think they’re getting a great deal.
Here’s the plain truth: Any supervisor who votes to approve this monstrosity is casting a vote against the interests of taxpayers, constituents and our community, and in favor of out-of-state corporations – and their investors—who have no interests in our community.
Let’s learn from the mistakes made elsewhere.
Radio host Bob Lonsberry, of WHAM Radio in Rochester, New York, recently wrote about this. With his permission, I quote him, though I’ve substituted “Virginia” for “New York”:
“Are we going to look the other way as community after community across rural Virginia is stuck with alternate-energy monstrosities that destroy ancient vistas and oppress local interests?
“Do we not see the injustice of far-away companies using government subsidies to force whole communities to salve the conscience of big-city progressives and enrich distant corporations but scar the birthright and psyche of rural Virginia?
“To forever scar the wooded horizons which have been our home. The way it has always been is no longer to be. The landscape carved by God and glaciers is scarred now, like the mark of a dog that has pissed against a tree.
“We love these forested hills and the skies above them. They are sacred to us. We see God in them, we feel our ancestors in them, our children will grow beneath them. And they are taken from us so a politician gets a campaign boast and a profiteer gets a government subsidy. For scarcely any good.”
Protect Spotsylvania. Deny sPower’s application.
Mr. McCarthy, a former producer of the USO Shows and television productions worldwide, is now a retired church music director living in Spotsylvania.