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Charlottesville-based company seeking to open solar power plant in Orange County

ORANGE — Redfish Solar Partners, a Charlottesville-based company, has applied for a special-use permit to build a renewable energy facility on 96.6 acres of agriculturally zoned land in Locust Grove.

The land, on Catharpin Road, is owned by Catherine and Michael Mayo Jr. and is less than three miles from the Paytes community just over the Orange-Spotsylvania County line. The 422-acre Sol Madison facility — approved in 2017 for a special-use permit and purchased last year by Dominion Energy Virginia, is approximately three miles to the northeast of the subject property.

In an application submitted to Orange County Planning and Zoning last fall, Redfish has applied to build a 6.472-megawatt direct current, 4.999-megawat alternating current solar photovoltaic and battery energy storage facility on up to 45 acres of the parcel. The project is being pursued in partnership with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.

The Orange County Planning Commission will open a public hearing on the special-use permit application at its meeting Thursday, and accept written comments through Feb. 23. The commission expects to consider its recommendation to the Orange County Board of Supervisors during its March 4 meeting. The board will schedule a public hearing after the commission makes its recommendation.

In its SUP submission, the applicants say the project has been sized specifically to supplement the energy consumption of homes and businesses in Orange County that are serviced by the REC distribution network.

The applicants suggest the project will have minimal impact on county services and infrastructure, including water and sewer, roads, schools or emergency services.

The application suggests the project would “diversify the region’s electricity generation mix, reducing a reliance on natural gas and other fuels subject to high price volatility.”

Additionally, the application notes the proposed project would deliver more efficient power from a “centralized plant in communities where the electricity is consumed, rather than others located tens or hundreds of miles away,” reducing the need for long-term transmission system upgrades.

REC’s Paytes substation, which feeds the local electrical distribution system, is about 1.5 miles southwest of the Redfish project site. If approved, the project would provide the infrastructure necessary to connect the solar facility to the distribution grid.

The applicants said the project would generate “about 10,290 megawatt-hours of clean renewable electricity each year, which is equivalent to 840 homes’ energy use for one year, 1,572 passenger vehicles driven for one year and 7,276 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided.”

The nearly 100-page-long application suggests the project would have a limited environmental impact — not producing noticeable noise, vibration, dust, debris or traffic — and would not present safety hazards to surrounding properties. There are no buildings currently on the parcel and none proposed.

Structures on site would include: steel support posts, racking, solar photovoltaic modules, equipment pads for a transformer and inverter, containers housing the battery energy storage system, electrical interconnection equipment and fencing around the project. The maximum equipment height is expected to be 15 feet and the application offers supplemental vegetative screening in areas not already wooded. Approximately half of the parcel (45 acres) is open land with the balance wooded.

The proposed project is located in a rural community characterized by low-density single-family residences and agricultural land use (row crops and other agricultural uses), the application notes.

If approved and constructed, the project is expected to have a 25- to 35-year lifespan, and the application calls for the facility to be deenergized, disconnected, dismantled and removed at the end of its viability.

The applicants expect an estimated capital investment of approximately $6.5 million with an additional $1.9 million in associated economic impacts. It would take about six to nine months to construct.

In recent weeks, the Board of Supervisors has discussed solar farms during the “board comment” portion of meetings, expressing concerns over the proposed Dominion project and one in neighboring Spotsylvania County that spawned the Orange board to file suit.

Written comments to the Planning Commission should be no more than 500 words on a single sheet of paper and can be submitted by mail to Sandra Thornton, 128 W. Main Street, Orange, VA 22960; or by email to sthornton@orangecountyva.gov. Comments must be received by noon Feb. 23. Application materials can be viewed at orangecountyva.gov. For more information, call (540) 672-4347 or email zoning@orangecountyva.gov.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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