Solar facility coming to Charles City County in 2021
With conditions set forth in a special use permit, Charles City supervisors approved the construction of a solar facility Tuesday night.
S-Power Group LLC was granted the permit to build a 340-megawatt solar facility on 1,800 acres of land located across from St. John’s Baptist Church on Roxbury Road. Another smaller facility will be placed near Chambers Road. The facility is expected to bring in a total of $4,725,000 over the next 35 years, whereas the undeveloped land would only bring $455,000 at that time.
Prior to the approve, a public comment period resulted in nine speakers stepping to the podium.
“I strongly support it,” said Steve Fuhrmann. “Solar energy is the newest trend of energy. Our county will be seen as a county embracing future energy production.”
“I understand the needs of the county and clean energy,” chimed in Mark Gardner, who lives close to the site. “I’m sure that they [S-Power] will fulfill their promises.”
Some of those promises include the company contributing at least $300,000 a year in minimum payments through taxes. Another condition that was placed in the special use permit was that five acres of land would be donated to the county for the construction of a new fire station. The group, however, does not have to pay for the construction of that building.
But some residents had comments about the land the solar facility would occupy and the effect it could possibly have on nature.
“I have several concerns about how wildlife will be effected and if any consideration of the wetlands was taken into account,” said Marilyn Wetton. “When this is operation, I want to know the practices the company will have if wildlife gets into the panels.
“I don’t think the buffer is big enough,” added Kellie LaPel. “One hundred feet is about the length of two houses.”
It was re-explained that the buffers from Roxbury Road (Route 106) would be 300 feet, while buffers would be 100 feet from Old Union Road, Barnetts Road, and Cattail Road. Representatives ensured that proper fencing would be friendly to the wildlife and that the facilities’ operations would keep noise to a minimal.
Cullen Jenkins said that S-Power already feels like a part of the community.
“Last year, someone broke into our establishment and stole $1,000 in scholarship money,” he said. “They overheard the situation and said they would give $2,000 to us for that. I told them to take a day and think about it, but they were at the restaurant at 8 a.m. with a check in that amount.
“The environment is a big thing to this generation, and I am excited when I can say that Charles City has a solar farm,” Jenkins concluded.
After the public comments closed, District 1 representative Gilbert Smith talked about the project that falls within his district.
“I’ve been following this project ever since it was announced,” he said. “I don’t know what the future holds for us but looking at that land for the last 70 years, I have only known of one building that was ever there.
“What will happen to that land in the next five or ten years?” Smith asked. “Shall we get a piece of the pie now or let this opportunity go by?”
Smith had county administrator Michelle Johnson read the highlights of the special use permit before he motioned for approval of the project. Supervisors approved the permit unanimously.
Construction on the solar facility is expected to begin in January 2020 after all permit have been obtained with operations commencing on Apr. 30, 2021.