125 MW solar project proposed in Virginia

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Solar developer Community Energy has submitted an application to the Board of Supervisors in Augusta County, Virginia to construct a 125MW-AC solar power plant across a smattering of locations in existing farm and nursery land.

The project comes at an opportune time for the state, which has gone through a bit of an installation lull in the past year. Virginia is 17th in installed solar capacity according to SEIA at just over 630MW, falling seven spots from last year. During this fall Old Dominion was passed by neighboring Maryland, which upped its total installed capacity to over 930MW and added 21MW to it’s already popular Maryland Community Solar Pilot Program.

Augusta outlines that it intends to begin construction on the project in the summer of 2019, with the expectation that it will go online around the same time, if not a bit earlier in 2020. The application states that the project has off-takers, however are listed specifically and Community Energy Solar had not responded to inquiries by the time of publication.

As has become common for large-grade projects in and around residential areas, the sight and sounds of the facility became an area of concern. As a solution, Community Energy is planning on surrounding the facility with a buffer of vegetation, effectively putting the various layout locations out of site, as well as dispersing their limited audio output.

Another common element to this type of project, especially one that is on farmland like Augusta is that the land is being leased from the landowner, rather than purchased. This allows farmers to continue to secure regular checks for the land that they would otherwise be using for agriculture.

The project will use single-axis trackers, mounted 4 feet from the ground, reaching 8 feet at maximum tilt. While no specifics have been made available yet as to which companies will be supplying the modules, racking and inverters, the project is expected to cover 1,000 of the total 2,600 leased acres.

For the time being, it looks like Virginia is coming out of its temporary installation hiccup, as this application comes just weeks after a 500MW project was approved within the state, the largest East of the Rockies. It appears that once again, Virginia is ready to keep pace with its neighbors. However the state is still a long way from competing with North Carolina, which has a total installed capacity of over 4,400MW, second in the country only to California.