Spotsylvania solar project back in action

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In what might as well be called a Shyamalan-esque twist, the largest section of sPower’s proposed 500 MW solar project in Spotsylvania county, Virginia has been approved. I say Shyamalan-esque, because if he could write twists this good he’d have more Oscars and less films like Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Not only was the project approved, but the vote wasn’t even close, as county supervisors voted 5-2 in approval. Considering the overwhelming public criticism from residents, the opposition shown at public hearings and the initial recommendation of denial of this and the 18-acre portion, this is, well you get the point.

To get a better idea of what the project is set to look like, let’s consult our map:

The landmasses in the map and the capacities listed don’t line up, so it is hard to know exactly how many watts of the project have been approved. The smaller section on the left was previously given the green-light, and if enough ends up making it on the final design it will be among the largest projects west of the Rockies, and the largest known by pv magazine on the East Coast. At a conservative estimation, this project has only had 54% of its landmass approved.

A minute should be taken to address the voices of opposition, as those voices have certainly shown up in our comments section. There is, first and foremost, the group that has attacked the project the harshest: “Concerned Citizens of Spotsylvania County.” The group’s rhetoric has been eerily similar to that of pro-coal advocates and the Koch brothers network of front groups, like the Heritage Foundation, Taxpayer Protection Alliance and SolarSecrets.org. The voices of opposition at meetings have included non-local climate skeptics, a lobbyist that had worked for  both coal producer Peabody Energy and, for 25 years, ExxonMobil and advisers for the Heartland Institute.

There was, however, a quieter voice of opposition which should be recognized. These citizens had concerns, not with solar energy as a concept, but the scope of the project. They were even in favor of large-scale solar, supporting the project’s 30 MW portion. The members of this school of thought felt that 500 MW was a bit ambitious for the community of 132,000. While some may disagree with this view, it is at the very least more reasonable.

The opposition did get a bit of what they wanted, as the supervisors voted to cap the project at its 500 MW potential, if approved, quelling fears that sPower would soon thirst for expansion.

Either way, the vote is in and the project needs just one more vote of approval to flex the full scope of its potential. sPower is not the only entity hoping to see this potential realized, as Apple, Microsoft and the University of Richmond have already made agreements to purchase the power generated.