Looking through the following documents (see below), the proposed 500-megawatt solar farm in Spotsylvania County looks like a great deal all around. For instance, in addition to the 500 megawatts (that’s big!) of clean, cheap power, this project also:
- “…will utilize approximately 3,500 acres for the solar power plant while over 2,800 acres will be preserved into perpetuity and not developed“
- “…has already attracted partners such as Microsoft, Apple and the University of Richmond”
- “…will include approximately 50% of open space,” which “includes 200 acres in buffering along all boundary property lines,” and “setbacks vary[ing] from 50 to 400 feet along the entire project, with an average of 200 feet of setback and at times greater than 300 feet from residential boundaries, plus at least six foot tall landscaped berms (complete shielding) in areas requiring additional screening. This far exceeds county requirement.”
- “…an approximately $600 million investment in Spotsylvania County” (!)
- “Approximately $10 million in total tax revenues over the life of the project; as compared to approximately $525,000 total for 35 years under the current land use category” (!)
- “Approximately 700 direct new jobs during construction” and “[c]reation of 20-25 full time positions after construction“
- “…rooftop or ground mount solar facilities for exclusive benefit and use of the County schools and buildings at a cost of up to $1 million to be matched by a solar partner and overall benefit to the County of over $35 million in electricity cost savings“
So with all this great stuff, what’s the opposition to this project based on, exactly? For one thing, according to the Virginia Mercury, “The opposition has claimed that cadmium telluride poses a threat to human health if it leaches into water sources. sPower has stated that there is no scientific basis for these claims.” And yeah, that’s correct – this is completely unscientific and absurd.
What else? The project would be built on land that’s been actively logged for years, and that’s going to be developed one way or the other – residential, industrial or the solar farm. So yep, those trees are mostly going to be cut down, regardless. With the solar farm, at least land will be preserved, and of course solar farms are not sterile wastelands, but can actually do things like become pollinator habitats and help save the bees.
Then there are questions about property values, about which there are strong – and strongly differing – views. I’m not sure how that one gets resolved exactly, but I’d love to see a comparison of potential impacts on property values under various forms of development of the land in question here.
The bottom line, in my view, is that this solar farm should absolutely be built. The vast majority of people support more solar power; we need a lot more clean energy for environmental and economic reasons; and this project will bring enormous benefits to Spotsylvania County specifically.
So why hasn’t all this good news gotten out there more broadly, and why aren’t PRO-solar folks more organized? As far as I can tell, sPower has been ridiculously passive, perhaps overconfident/arrogant, and definitely not proactive in communicating the benefits of this project. Ideally, this should have started a year ago or whatever, with a concerted effort to get the facts out and to head off – or at least minimize – opposition. Instead, it looks like sPower allowed the situation to go untended, fester, whatever you want to say, and now…BOOM! The situation has just blown up on them, and now they’re scrambling at the last minute, which is really dumb. In short, this is a classic case study of how NOT to do public relations. Great job, guys.
P.S. Also see Major solar project in Spotsylvania targeted by climate skeptics, fossil fuel interests and Fossils going hard after solar in Spotsylvania (“Large scale solar power development is under attack by fossil fuel interests, with the Spotsylvania, Virginia project by sPower being focused on by right wing news websites and ‘think tanks'”)