A proposal years in the making for solar panels on a capped landfill in Albemarle County is finally moving forward.
Maryland-based Community Power Group, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and Dominion Energy are proceeding with plans for three solar facilities, each with one megawatt of generation capacity, on land at the Ivy Materials Utilization Center.
The project has been brewing since 2017, but due to timing with Dominion the project was not finalized until now.
Phil McKalips, RSWA’s director of solid waste, said the plan is for Community Power Group to build two of the three facilities soon after approvals are given. The third will be completed later.
“It would be somewhere in the future and not part of this deal right now,” he said. “They just want to get the county approval for all of it at once.”
In June 2017, staff presented a solar development project at the Ivy MUC to the RSWA Board for consideration. In September of that year, the lease was signed with Community Power Group after an RFP process.
McKalips said RSWA will receive $800 per acre per year for the life of the project — currently slated at 20 years, but it could be renewed for longer. It also will help the authority offset some of its maintenance costs, as it will no longer have to mow that portion of the land.
“I’m not saying that’s huge, but it’s something,” he said. “This isn’t a massive moneymaker, we’re not making billions on this by any stretch.”
Dominion has said it plans to add 16,000 megawatts of solar capacity through company-owned projects and power purchase agreements signed with third-party developers in the state as part of the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Community Power Group and Dominion are currently working on a power purchase agreement for two of the facilities.
Community Power Group in February submitted an application for a special-use permit from Albemarle County for the project, which shows the three facilities on about 15 acres of the site on Dick Woods Road.
According to its application, the facilities will not require any onsite staff, and annual maintenance visits will be performed by a team of one or two technicians.
McKalips said they’ve heard “quite positive feedback” from neighboring property owners. A viewshed analysis showed that there is the potential to see the proposed facilities from the properties and roadways immediately surrounding the site, but they will not be seen due to existing vegetation.
Community Power Group said it anticipates a very low level of noise outside of the perimeter fence, “no greater than existing noises generated during daily activities at the Rivanna Material Utilization Center.”
“Effort will be taken to locate inverters as close to the interior of the solar array or away from nearby residences as is feasible,” it said in its application. “This will allow the panels themselves to provide shielding and further mitigate equipment noise.”
A letter from the Department of Conservation and Recreation submitted with the application says that natural heritage resources have not been documented within the submitted project boundary, including a 100-foot buffer.
Community Power Group said that because this project is located on a capped landfill, extra care needs to be taken to ensure no ground disturbance in the landfill area.
“Due to this limitation, CPG will not be installing pollinator-friendly ground cover beneath the panels,” it said in its application.
The company will be using a ground-mounted, fully-ballasted solar racking system that does not require any ground penetrations.
If the special-use permit is approved, construction of the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2022, with the facility generating power by late summer or fall of that year.