Articles from Virginia
A renewable energy company has revised its plan to build wind turbines on a Botetourt County ridgeline, making them nearly 700 feet tall. The latest proposal by Apex Clean Energy exceeds the maximum turbine height of 550 feet approved nearly three years ago and would require an amended permit from the county’s board of supervisors.
The agreement also provides a long-sought purchaser of 75 megawatts of electricity to be produced by wind turbines built by Apex, a Charlottesville company that obtained all of the permits needed for the project two and a half years ago. Since then, Apex has not begun construction while it has searched for a utility or other buyer to make the project commercially feasible.
After meeting with both sides and reviewing reams of documents, we’ve determined that the rancorous year-long debate over a proposed 6,350-acre solar power plant that has pitted Concerned Citizens of Spotsylvania County, a small local grassroots group, against a large, out-of-state corporation comes down to this: the project is way too big for western Spotsylvania County, and there are too few benefits to county residents to offset this major deficiency.
Residents who live around the proposed site in the Wilderness area of western Spotsylvania have aggressively opposed the project, saying it is too big, includes too many unknown risks and would bring no benefits to the county. The company has, in turn, aggressively countered residents with experts who deem the project safe and beneficial to the county.
A consultant for the county determined there “is no heat island,” but believes temporary heat spikes could happen with the Spotsylvania facility. That finding led staff and the Planning Commission to recommend 350-foot setbacks between solar equipment and property lines. Staff recommends these setbacks only for properties with houses, while the Planning Commission recommended them for the entire property. SPower says those setbacks would negatively impact the project plans. The company is seeking 100-foot setbacks from property lines and 350-foot setbacks from homes.
"This is huge. This is a tremendous victory for national parks and public lands," said Pamela Goddard, senior regional director for the NPCA's Mid-Atlantic region. "The court has found that if anyone wants to build a major infrastructure project, they must follow the law. So it's a victory for our parks and public lands."
The Planning Commission recommended denial of two of the three sections, one of which would produce 400 megawatts and comprise 5,200 acres. The entire proposed project would cover about 6,300 acres, but the commission backed only a 245-acre segment.
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.
A company called S-Power wants to build a massive solar energy center on 6,000 acres ...More than half of the land would be covered with solar panels. "This would be the fifth largest solar plant in the United States. ...All 10 of (the largest of) these are nowhere near a residential area."
Since 2005, wind turbine projects have been proposed by other developers in Southwest Virginia, including the counties of Highland, Roanoke and Tazewell. All of the plans eventually stalled. ...to some degree, all of them ran into opposition from nearby residents, who said giant turbines on ridgelines would mar scenic landscapes, make too much noise and produce harmful shadow flickers.
The commission in charge of regulating Dominion’s proposal finds the project to be overly expensive, risky and unnecessary, but it says it is unwilling to send it back to the utility company because state legislators believe such a project, in principle, would benefit the commonwealth. That’s a shame. The commission’s research highlights significant concerns with Dominion’s proposal. Yet, the project moves ahead.
Finally, the commission complained that ratepayers will bear the financial brunt of a project that won’t, under any scenario in Dominion’s long-term energy plan, be competitive with other resources for the next 25 years.
The SCC concluded in a scathing 20-page order on Friday that the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project isn’t needed to serve Dominion customers and will cost more than any other option for generating electricity to serve the utility’s 2.6 million customers. The commission was especially direct in noting that the project’s developers won’t bear any of the risk for a project.
In truth, it is hard to imagine a worse factual record, a worse example of wasting ratepayer money and imposing ratepayer risk. For $300 million or more the company will receive only 12 megawatts of power and with the assumed operational efficiency of the turbines that will work out to 78 cents per kilowatt hour. Then a hurricane may wreck it.
Imagine a 6,350-acre parcel close to your home filled with rows and rows of 1.8 million solar panels and the largest solar power farm of its kind east of the Rocky Mountains. Imagine wondering what effect that massive farm would have not only on the local environment, but also the microclimate, because such a project in a populated area is unprecedented.
The $300 million project will be funded through existing base rates, enabled by the Grid Transformation & Security Act. Contingent on various regulatory approvals, onshore construction would start in 2019, followed by turbine installation and operation in 2020.
Offshore wind power has blown hot and cold in Virginia, but could get a boost Wednesday when the governor’s office expects to introduce the global consultant it’s chosen to help position the state as a major contender.
Before construction, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was commissioned to run a model on how the spinning blades, which reach 500 feet in the air, might distort radar signals. The model showed 104 turbines would work, but no more.
As Virginia utilities prepare to comply with a new state renewable energy requirement, a recent regulatory ruling points to potential complications. A sweeping state energy law takes effect July 1 that, among other things, requires utilities to add 5,000 megawatts of wind and solar by 2028.