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Solar farm could power half the homes in Albemarle while feeding birds, bees, butterflies and sheep

While some counties are refusing permits for solar farms, Albemarle County welcomes plans for one near Scottsville.
While some counties are refusing permits for solar farms, Albemarle County welcomes plans for one near Scottsville.

Charlottesville-based Hexagon Energy hopes to install solar panels on 650 acres near Scottsville. After 80 years of tree farming, the land there is exhausted, so Hexagon’s Scott Remer says the company will cultivate native grasses and flowers to restore the soil:

“It’s about 500 acres of meadow habitat that’s actually going to be established from a cutover moonscape right now to about 500 acres of meadow habitat, and that’s not even counting clover and plants and flowers and grasses that are under the panels,” he told a meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

He predicted the new habitat would feed birds, bees, butterflies and sheep.

“In the initial phase we’ll, of course, mow, but in time we’d love to see this as a spot where sheep can be grazed. What we can start with right away is bee and butterfly production, so we’ve actually signed a letter of intent with Thistlerock Meadery to let them keep about 100 hives on our site.”

News of grazing on site concerned supervisor Diantha McKeel.

“I heard somebody talking about goats, and I thought, ‘Goats are not going to work there. They’d be all over your panels!'" she told Remer.

He acknowledged that boats could, indeed, climb into solar panels and nibble wires, making them unwise for this project.

Remer promised large land buffers around the site – preserving or planting trees to shield the neighbors and said grading the property would reduce erosion, but the sales pitch seemed unnecessary, as two dozen people lined up to speak in support of the project. Rob Brooks, an economic development expert, said the solar array was gold.

“There are going to be few people associated with the project. That means no extra teachers needed, no fire or extra police needed, no infrastructure required from the county – water, sewer, roads, and it’s going to be heavy on tax revenues, which is fantastic for the county, fantastic for residents like myself.”

Gray McClain, founder and chair of the Community Climate Collaborative, said developments like this would combat climate change and protect other living things.

“We must protect the white oaks, the black bear, indigo buntings and the brook trout. If we don’t, soon enough we’ll be living in South Carolina.”

And because it could easily connect to a power line built for the now defunct Bremo coal burning plant, environmentalist Katie Evinger said this location would save a ton of trees.

"For every mile of transmission line built you can expect to cut down between 5,000-14,000 trees," she explained.

Hexagon hopes to start work on the Woodridge Solar Farm in the next year.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief