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Spotsylvania County Puts Off Decision on Massive Solar Farm

The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors met for nearly nine hours Tuesday night as over 100 residents argued for and against construction of a massive solar array. 

The board ended up tabling a decision on the project to its next meeting.

sPower operates 150 solar farms in twelve states, and spokesman Charlie Payne said adding another would be great for Spotsylvania County. “The project could aid in attracting high-tech companies to Spotsylvania

County.  In fact 78 percent of Dominion's renewable generation is partnerships with data centers,” Payne argued.

An employee from Microsoft was one of more than 100 people to testify, confirming that her company wanted more green power. 

Speaking for a group called Conservatives for Clean Energy, Chris West said public demand was also strong. “In a recent poll, over 71% of Virginians want to put more emphasis on solar energy.”

But a majority of those who testified opposed the project.  Michael O’Bier worried about the impact on his family’s land. “My well is only feet off the property line, 47 feet deep.  What happens if my well goes dry,” O'Bier asked.

Others, like Tray Taylor, thought a sea of 1.8 million solar panels would hurt the value of nearby homes.  “Nobody wants to live next door to this,” Taylor said.

Kevin McCarthy noted he and other neighbors had checked on Virginia counties with large solar arrays. "The three counties that have the three largest power plants and the county with the largest site in North Carolina have reported no additional economic impacts.  No businesses attracted.  Limited economic benefits from vehicle rentals, catering orders and an uptick in fast food and motel stays."

But retired geology professor Augustus Coterra said Virginia and the world must replace fossil fuels. “Everything that I read, everything that I hear indicates that we are heading for a catastrophe,” Coterra predicted.

Many speakers said they were not against solar, but at the very least the county should approve a much smaller project and pass laws to protect the public.

After nearly nine hours, supervisors tabled a decision on the special use permits to their next meeting.  They also asked county staff to catalog the concerns shared Tuesday night along with responses from the company and consultants on how those concerns could be addressed.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
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