Council OKs solar farm construction

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

MOUNT JACKSON – On Tuesday, Town Council gave the final green light for preparations to begin for construction of a solar farm in town.

Council voted 6-0 to grant a special-use permit to Virginia Solar to construct a 160-acre, 16.65-megawatt farm between Georgetown and Turkey Knob roads.

Ken Hackenbracht, Whitney Miller, Rodney Shepherd, Roger Rudy, Dennis Andrick and Donald Pifer voted to approve the permit.

The farm will be built on part of a 712-acre parcel that its owner, Planning Commissioner Robert Whitehurst, hopes to turn into an industrial site.

The commission voted 3-0 to recommend that council approve the permit, with Whitehurst abstaining and Hackenbracht, Evelyn Burner and Anita Miller voting in favor.

The farm will generate electricity to be sold to Dominion Virginia Power, which has committed to adding 400 megawatts of solar energy to its grid by 2020.

Dominion owns and operates three farms totaling 56 megawatts in Powhatan, Louisa and Isle of Wight counties.

Matthew Meares, co-founder of Virginia Solar, presented the Richmond-based company’s plan for the farm to the town’s Planning Commission on May 1.

Once the special-use permit is approved, he said, the company must seek additional state permits, which will likely take until mid-2018.

The farm’s construction is expected to create 235 temporary jobs, while maintenance will create six full-time jobs. No estimate for the construction costs has been given.

During the meeting, Shepherd praised the company for its plans to plant vegetation underneath the solar panels which will encourage population growth for local honeybees.

“That makes all the sense in the world,” Shepherd said.

According to Virginia Solar’s plans, a six-foot fence will surround the farm, while all lights on the property will face downward and a tree-buffer line will be planted along Georgetown Road to prevent light pollution.

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