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Solar farm's construction upsets Spotsylvania residents: Report

Critics of the sPower solar project in Spotsylvania County have raised concerns about its environmental impact.

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, VA — Developers of a major energy project in central Virginia are turning open land and woodlands into red-clay paths as they build the massive project. The energy project is not a natural gas pipeline or a fossil-fueled power plant. It's one of the largest solar energy developments in the country.

Nearby residents complain that this type of solar development is actually bad for the environment, causing a loss of acres of carbon-reducing trees that were cleared for the project.

Since 2017, residents in northwestern Spotsylvania County — in what's called the Wilderness area of the county — have been fighting construction of a massive 500-megawatt solar project. The plant itself will take up a huge amount of land, far more than a fossil-fueled power plant that generates the same amount of power. Natural gas and coal plants, though, require disturbances of land outside the footprint of the generating facility to produce, process and transport the fuel to the power plant unlike solar plants, which rely on the sun to generate... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Critics of the sPower solar​ project in Spotsylvania County have raised concerns about its environmental impact.

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, VA — Developers of a major energy project in central Virginia are turning open land and woodlands into red-clay paths as they build the massive project. The energy project is not a natural gas pipeline or a fossil-fueled power plant. It's one of the largest solar energy developments in the country.

Nearby residents complain that this type of solar development is actually bad for the environment, causing a loss of acres of carbon-reducing trees that were cleared for the project.

Since 2017, residents in northwestern Spotsylvania County — in what's called the Wilderness area of the county — have been fighting construction of a massive 500-megawatt solar project. The plant itself will take up a huge amount of land, far more than a fossil-fueled power plant that generates the same amount of power. Natural gas and coal plants, though, require disturbances of land outside the footprint of the generating facility to produce, process and transport the fuel to the power plant unlike solar plants, which rely on the sun to generate electricity.

Critics of the Sustainable Power Group, or sPower, project, according to a Free Lance-Star report, have raised a range of concerns, from the amount of land disturbed to the removal of trees needed to build the project to the construction's impact on neighbors.

Aside from building solar farms in areas that require deforestation and upset local habitat and ecosystems, some renewable energy advocates suggest better sites for solar panels include flat roofs, parking lots and non-forested land. Energy conservation, along with reining in industrial and housing development, also can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the negative impacts of energy infrastructure development.

The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors approved special-use permits last April for the solar farm, a $615 million facility that will require more than 6,300 acres to install 1.8 million solar panels, the Free Lance-Star reported.

The project developer, sPower, is a joint venture partnership between AES Corp., a global energy company based in Arlington, and Alberta Investment Management Corporation, an institutional investment fund manager in Canada.

The company touts how the project will generate enough power to supply the equivalent of about 111,000 homes and offset 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. But most of the output from the solar farm will not be used to help keep the lights on in homes or provide air-conditioning for families in the summer.

Instead, sPower, based in Salt Lake City, has agreements to sell its energy to high-tech companies, including Microsoft, that have plans to build new power data centers in the state. The University of Richmond also has signed a contract to use power from a portion of the project.

Michael O'Bier, a retired plumbing contractor who lives next to the project, told the Free Lance-Star that his property is at "ground zero." Impacts to his property have been cited in one of the project's zoning violations.

"It's been a war zone," O'Bier told the Free Lance-Star. Impacts from work on the solar project have ranged from muddy runoff water streaming through his property to having portable toilets set up just across his property line by the developers get submerged in muddy water after a rain storm.

An sPower spokeswoman told the Free Lance-Star that the company "has gone above and beyond to remediate what was going on on Mr. O'Bier's property" and that sPower "has been working closely with the county and Mr. O'Bier to address his concerns."

The spokeswoman said the company will continue to monitor the project and handle any issues that might arise, the Free Lance-Star reported.


Source: https://patch.com/virginia/...

JAN 29 2020
http://www.windaction.org/posts/51224-solar-farm-s-construction-upsets-spotsylvania-residents-report
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