Another One Bites the Dust

Utility-scale solar projects are getting shot down like Hamas rockets.

by James A. Bacon

From today’s news dump courtesy of VA News:

The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected an application by Dynamic Energy LLC to build a five-megawatt solar facility on 40 acres of farmland near Bealeton, reports Fauquier Now. “When I looked at this,” said Supervisor Rick Gerhardt, “I didn’t want to take solid farmland out of production. Those are good soils on that property. For me, I do not want to see that removed from farming.” The county planning commission had rejected it previously by a 3 to 2 vote.

Meanwhile, Round Hill Solar LLC has withdrawn a plan to develop 560 acres of solar panels from the Augusta County Board of Supervisor. The planning commission had already determined that the plan conflicted with the county’s comprehensive plan that took location, character, and extent of the project into consideration, reports the News Leader.

In other recent solar-related news, Hollow Road Solar LLC, National Fruit Orchards Inc., and Diane Holmes are suing the Frederick County Board of Supervisors for $7.5 million for denying a conditional-use permit to put a 326-acre utility-scale solar facility on land owned by National Fruit Orchards and Diane Holmes. The plaintiffs alleged that the Frederick board had been “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” in rejecting its application after having approved two similar applications previously. Board members said they wanted to see the impact of the first two solar facilities before approving a third.

Meanwhile, Dominion Energy, which has committed to meet a large share of the 16,000 megawatts of solar or onshore wind energy called for in the Virginia Clean Energy Act, has struck a deal to acquire Birdseye Renewable Energy, a North Carolina-based solar developer, reports Power Finance & Risk.

“We’re combining our company’s financial commitment to clean energy with Birdseye’s proven development expertise,” said Diane Leopold, Dominion’s chief operating officer. “That’s an ideal alignment to advance the goals of the Virginia Clean Energy Act, the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan and Dominion Energy’s goal of net zero emissions.”

Heretofore, Dominion has limited its direct involvement in solar development mainly to pilot projects, preferring to solicit proposals from independent developers through Requests for Proposal. The Birdseye acquisition appears to represent a significant shift in strategy.

Does this strategic shift reflect a change in thinking inside Dominion regarding its ability to meet its clean energy goals? Is the energy giant signaling a willingness to get more involved in the development process? Bacon’s Rebellion will stay on top of this unfolding story.

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33 responses to “Another One Bites the Dust”

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Farm land lost is farm land lost forever. Fauquier is making a push to preserve the agriculture of the southern end of the county. They have made some big dents in land conservation easements in what was once a forgotten part of a large county. I believe Fauquier leads the state in land conservation. It was interesting that a small 40 acre solar farm with a secured bond to restore the land back to agriculture was ultimately rejected. A few years back we had our first solar farm in Remington. Residents did not like how it turned out and solar is seen just as much of a threat as residential development.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Facquier is rich-man horse country and they are pretty much anti-development anyhow.

      What happened to property rights?

      Many counties in Virginia have approved landfills , auto junkyards, industrial poultry and pig operations, pipelines and power lines – on “farmland”. The state allows the spreading of sewage “bio-solids” on farm fields. Some counties have large coal-ash sites. Others have Nukes on what was formerly “farm land”. North Anna not only has Nukes but a State Park that was formerly “farmland”. Much of the commercial and residential development on Lake Anna was “farmland”.

      So , no problem letting a farmer sell his land to a developer for fancy lake-front houses or a boat marina but not so much for solar?

      Talk about hypocrisy.

      It’s not really a problem though, as other counties will gladly allow their citizens to be able to “use” their property and pay county taxes.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        All stereotypical buffalo chips Mr. Larry.
        Fauquier Agriculture produced this 2 years ago:
        45,000 cattle
        1.5 million bushels of corn
        400,000 bushels of soybeans
        28,000 bushels of wheat
        40,000 bushels of barley
        14,600 horse inventory with a market value $268 million
        also attracted 110,000 spectators at equine events.
        228,000 acres of active farm land
        5 breweries
        24 wineries visited by 112,000 agritourists
        3,600 jobs created by all of this activity
        143 farms are set up as farm to table.

        1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
          Eric the half a troll

          With that many horses, they should develop a biogas facility.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    That’ll fire up the Libertarians. They do realize that some crops can be grown under and around the panels, right?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Not really, unless you enjoy harvesting with hand tools….Maybe marijuana?

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Cash is King.

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          How did Sam Phillips blow it so bad at Sun Records? He once had Johnny Cash and “The King” Elvis on the label at the same time. Don’t forget Jerry Lee Lewis too.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            AMC (sports equipment, not the theaters) once made 1,000,000 Laser sailboats and went BK. Nothing surprises me.

  3. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    The people are a lot smarter than the green elites who only care about using power to get their pet preferences mandated. Only the illusion of a climate disaster gives solar any hope.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Better picture, thank you. Many of my friends knew those 7.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Yeah, I didn’t like that either, although the astronaut who died that I knew (as the father of a classmate and a neighbor) was on Apollo 1. Ed White. We were on Rickenbacker at Edwards AFB and his family lived right behind us on the next street.

      1. JuniusQuercus Avatar

        Wow. I lived a block over from Rickenbacker at Edwards, from ’88 to ’92.

  5. John Martin Avatar
    John Martin

    so much for freedom to use the land as you wish

  6. Don Crawford Avatar
    Don Crawford

    what about all the roof tops? why not just add solar panels to them and forget about taking large sections of land?

    1. CJBova Avatar

      Not all buildings have the proper orientation to the sun or are unshaded by forest canopy or taller structures. If it’s an older building, it may not be able to support panels when there is a heavy accumulation of ice and snow. And the building has to be close enough to be able to connect to a substation.

      1. Don Crawford Avatar
        Don Crawford

        Yes, certainly there are buildings not suitable for solar, but there are those which are suitable. Hey, maybe we just start with all government buildings like with ADA and energy efficiency?

        1. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

          Some of the answers probably are:
          (1) We probably should have more roof top solar
          (2) Roof top solar is decentralized, which many of us like, but Dominion wants centralized utility-owned solar farms, so that has been Virginia’s focus

          PS- The other thing is roof top solar is more expensive. Many states get around the higher cost to consumers by forcing the Utility to pay part of the consumer’s cost via NetMetering, which in so many words, is basically a generous subsidy.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            People can invest in solar as individuals – and do but it’s a long pay-back time.

            It’s like ground-based HVACs. They eventually more than pay for themselves but it takes 20-30 years and most people – and companies don’t have financial horizons that long.

            It’s well known that utility scale solar is profitable and distributed solar is not at least not yet.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Yes but not every location will “work” of course. But there are lots and lots of sites that will.

      But the whole issue about using large sections of land is really bogus.

      For decades and ongoing, we use large sections of land for – mega landfills, pipelines, power lines, roads, spreading sewage “biosolids”, power plants, lakes for nukes, etc, etc. Solar is just another “use” and when shielded with berms and vegetation – essentially hidden from view.

      If you look down from above – there are vast sections of land in rural areas that is no longer used for farming as farming has become more efficient, much larger swaths of land are used for crops like corn and wheat and soybeans. Farming in the east has shrunk and there are more and more “farms” that are no longer farmed – and the people that own them still have to pay taxes on them.

      Owning larger plots of land requires money to pay the taxes, and that land needs to “produce” income to pay those taxes unless we are just going to depend on wealthy people to own the land and pay taxes on it.

      It’s a pure economic thing. Land is taxed – and even with low taxes – the money has to come from somewhere and the land needs to produce something to generate that income. Solar is one way and solar on land is not possible on any land – the land has to be close to a major transmission power line.

      Solar farms have the potential to be used for other things at the same time. some kinds of crops, cell towers, biosolid application, etc.

      Regulations and laws ensure the impacts are mitigated and reasonable and property owners ARE entitled to the legal use of their land.

      I’m amazed that folks who represent themselves as Conservatives and Libertarians – oppose property owners using their land , to have their land productive and generating income for the owner.

      It’s downright UN-American!

    3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Don Crawford is right! I see endless rooftops in Tysons’ Corner. Fairfax elitists don’t want solar in their backyard.
      No the urban elite want to put it in farmland such as Tyson’s Corner circa 1937.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Might also ask why these data centers don’t do their solar on-site instead of contracting with a 3rd party solar farm… eh?

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          Good point Mr. Larry. I have thought the same thing for a number of years. I wonder if Jimmy Carter’s White House solar panels are still on the the old house?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            If we could get past the ideological hate about solar farms – we might be able to talk about the economics of solar – farm versus non-farm but the “anti” folks are so spun up they just blow by that point.

  7. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    The most important development in this realm is Dominion’s recent decision (or recently revealed decision) to exit the PJM capacity market. It is all tied up in how the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) imposed by FERC changes the game for financing of renewable generation, and frankly it would take me a day of research to understand the implications. One of us needs to do that, though, Jim….

    1. I’ve got a call in to PJM right now. I’ll see if I can add this to the list of questions I’m posing.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        I’d like to hear more also.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Hmm, on a side note. NC is the only place without a flow of gasoline. Maybe they should hike the gas tax and build a better distribution system?

      As for Dominion, they just want that $800 average annual increase.

    3. Moderate Avatar

      Can Dominion unilaterally make the decision to leave PJM? Didn’t the General Assembly approve going to PJM? The state gave up some authority for that move, does that automatically return to the SCC? Lots of questions.

  8. Moderate Avatar

    I love it when they decide what happens to your land without consulting you. The big question is whether the farmer can make a sufficient living on the land. These days it’s tough to do so. Costs keep going up and payments keep going down. There are lots more folks in the food chain these days and the farmer is at the bottom.

    I will say that I’d rather turn my land over to solar, which can be removed and growing can resume and with which some crops/animals can be raised, than to have it taken by a pipeline – or held in perpetuity by a utility as an easement they can use/dispose of at will with no input from me. At least solar gives the landowner regular income. The easement is one time and doesn’t begin to cover the costs incurred in the fight or the ongoing property taxes left to the landowner who can no longer use the land as desired.

    This country was supposed to be founded on giving everyone a chance to improve their situation if they worked hard. These days that’s not something we can believe in. Someone else can come along and repurpose what we’ve struggled to build for generations.

    Don’t force a landowner to keep land in production unless you can guarantee that the production will be sufficient to make the work worthwhile.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Yep. And here we have the folks who blather all the time about regulation, being pro-business and pro property rights , now favor regulation and opposed business and property rights.

      Such hypocrisy in the name of “Conservatism”!

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