Bacon Bits: Hemp, Housing and Solar

NIMBYs against hemp. Farmers across Southside Virginia have turned to growing hemp (the THC-free version used in industrial applications) as a replacement crop for tobacco. But at least one Dinwiddie County neighborhood has risen in revolt. A hemp farm near the Lake Jordan neighborhood emits an offensive odor. The smell is so bad that it’s getting into peoples’ houses and permeating their clothing, reports the Progress-Index. “We’re worried that they’re going to continue planting around, which would basically mean [that] people will have to leave or just tolerate unbelievable skunk-like odors,” said Jarrod Reisweber, a director of the homeowners association. Daniel Lee, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors held out the hope that, if solutions could be found to control the odor of hog farms, a remedy could be found for hemp as well.

Amazon offers $20 million toward affordable housing. Amazon is offering $20 million to the Arlington County Affordable Housing Investment Fund in exchange for permission to build a bigger headquarters complex than county zoning allows. The sum would amount to the greatest single infusion of money into the fund, reports the Washington Post. Amazon wants to increase the size of its proposed 22-story office towers from 1.56 million square feet to about 2.15 million square feet, reduce the number of parking spaces, and increase penthouse height. If we assume an average of $50 per square foot for office space in Arlington, Amazon’s concessions are worth about $30 million. That’s gross value. Once construction costs are excluded, Amazon would net significantly less. By that comparison, the $20 million offer seems pretty generous.

Virginia Schools turn to solar. An increasing number of public and private schools in Virginia are utilizing solar power. The number of schools with solar has nearly tripled since 2014 — from 20 to 86, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. A niche industry has evolved in which entrepreneurs package solar Public Purchase Agreements (PPAs) in which schools put no cash down and start generating positive cash flow from the first year. Pete Gretz with the Middlesex County school system says that ground-mounted solar saved just under $50,000 at its elementary school site. “There’s no drawback to this,” he said. “It’s completely a win-win.”

A Department of Mines Minerals and Energy case study describes the PPA between Middlesex schools and Charlottesville-based Sun Tribe Solar. The PPA rate is 6.84 cents per kilowatt hour, which compares to a Virginia average of 12.40 cents per kwh. From the county’s perspective the deal is very good indeed. But Middlesex does not compensate its electric utility for the cost of maintaining backup power. In effect, Middlesex schools are being subsidized by rate payers. Under a General Assembly pilot program, there is a 50-megawatt limit on PPAs. Eighty percent of that cap has been reached. Expect a major push by environmentalists and the emerging solar industry to expand it.

— JAB

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6 responses to “Bacon Bits: Hemp, Housing and Solar

  1. NIMBYs–It has long been a problem with folks moving into subdivisions plopped into the middle of rural farmland and then complaining about the smells and sounds of farms–manure spreading, tractors plowing at odd hours, etc. Although the people in Dinwiddie may have a legitimate gripe–the hemp was not being grown when they moved in, I still say, “Tough. You want the advantages of living out in the country, you have to put up with the disadvantages as well.”

    Solar–How do you know that Middlesex County is not compensating the public utility for the cost of maintaining backup power? The fact sheet touting 100% of the electricity needed is undoubtedly an exaggeration, unless the schools plan to use generators on cloudy and rainy days and at nights when there are events (PTA meetings, school plays, etc.) going on.

    I really like the placing of the solar panels on the roofs of the school, as shown on the fact sheet. Like most infrastructure, solar panels are not pretty and putting them on roofs not only utilizes unused space, it gets them out of sight.

  2. “I really like the placing of the solar panels on the roofs of the school, as shown on the fact sheet. Like most infrastructure, solar panels are not pretty and putting them on roofs not only utilizes unused space, it gets them out of sight.”

    Amen, brother. Where I live, the two solar farms in sight driving by are horrible blights on two of the most beautiful land and seascapes in the world. The views get worse every year as both get junkier and more ill kept.

  3. “Virginia Schools turn to solar. The number of schools with solar has nearly tripled since 2014 — from 20 to 86, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. … Pete Gretz with the Middlesex County school system says that ground-mounted solar saved just under $50,000 at its elementary school site. ‘There’s no drawback to this,’ he said. ‘It’s completely a win-win.'”

    Now here goes my PR for changing our central generation system at the basic level …
    “The PPA rate is 6.84 cents per kilowatt hour, which compares to a Virginia average of 12.40 cents per kwh. ” In effect, Middlesex schools are being subsidized by rate payers. (Maybe, but the school budget is paid for by the taxpayers)

    The ‘old rule regulations’ problem … Under a General Assembly pilot program, there is a 50-megawatt limit on PPAs. The limit was proposed because the on-site solar cuts into the utility sales and profits, even though the solar is good for everyone else.

    • If the Schools are still connected to the grid and have access to power, so long as they pay an availability rate to access Dominion-generated power, plus rates that recover the marginal cost for power used, it should be fair to ratepayers. If not, there is an unfair subsidy.

      The problem with looking at taxpayer funding for schools is that there is not a match between ratepayers and taxpayers. The former are all Dominion customers, while the other are a combination of local taxpayers and taxpayers statewide.

      • TMT … I understand and agree … just wanted to point out that the subsidy wasn’t as bad as stated.
        The need for rate reform is evident here where more schools are going to be restricted from saving operating monies …. Not sure what happened in Harrisonberg. Will check it out.

  4. PPA’s are good for VA public schools except Harrisonburg City Schools which elected not to enter into a PPA “on advice of counsel”!!

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