Solar Developer Pulls Culpeper Application

Cricket Solar, developer of a proposed 1,600-acre solar farm in Culpeper County, has yanked its application in the face of extensive local opposition to the project, reports the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

“On behalf of Cricket Solar LLC, I am writing to formally withdraw Cricket’s Conditional Use Permit application,” wrote attorney Ann Neil Cosby in a letter to Culpeper County’s planning director. “Cricket has been working diligently over the last few months redesigning the project boundaries to protect wetlands, improve efficiencies, and respond to community concerns related to the project.”

A local group, Citizens for Responsible Solar (CSR), had called for the project to be delayed to address neighbors’ concerns about natural and historic resources in the area. Cricket gave no indication of if or when it might re-file.

Bacon’s bottom line: The delay-delay strategy has defeated a major solar farm project, at least for now. Now that CSR has scored a big victory, it is logical to ask whether the group will now rest on its laurels, content that it has protected its own back yard, or seek to build a crusade. Indications from its website are that the organization does plan to oppose other projects.

The group, which recently organized as a 501(c)(4)-status pending IRS approval, regards itself as progenitor of a broader movement. Says the CRS website:

Our group of concerned citizens … is a grassroots movement that grew out of what we saw was the destruction of the rural Virginia landscape. Our goal is to educate the public on the negative impact of utility-scale solar on farmlands, woodlands, and the surrounding communities. We promote the responsible use of solar – meaning smaller-scale rural or larger-scale urban/industrial projects, roof-top installations, and installations that do not result in the loss of significant farmlands, woodlands, and wildlife habitat.

We do not support large government subsidies for industrial-scale projects that destroy miles of habitat and are a visual blight on the land.

Destruction of habitat on an industrial scale is not green. … Once permitted, these projects are often immediately sold to unrelated companies who develop the projects using out-of-state labor, with significantly fewer local economic benefits than initially claimed. Many projects threaten land on or near historic battlefields and other historic properties.

The organization is paying attention to what’s going on around the state. The website lists more than 75 “notices of intent” to build solar facilities. Meanwhile, CDR’s anti-solar activists are building a body of knowledge that will prove useful in opposing other projects. For example, the website replicates a Power Line blog post highlighting the hazards of decommissioning solar panels, which contain large volumes of cadmium. The heavy metal can be toxic in high concentrations (as environmentalists have warned us in pushing for the landfilling of coal ash). Also, according to news reports, CSR has reached out to officials in at least one other locality, Madison County, in opposition to industrial-scale solar.

I understand the group’s desire to protect treasured landscapes, historic resources, and the rural way of life. And I respect its shrewdness in proclaiming itself in favor of solar power — just not industrial-scale solar power.

But let’s be honest about one thing: smaller-scale and rooftop-scale solar is less economical than industrial-scale solar. The reason we see so many applications for solar farms in Virginia is that it is far more cheaper per unit to install thousands of solar panels on flat surfaces than to retrofit rooftops with hundreds of panels. If rooftop solar were economical, we’d see dozens of manufacturers and big-box retailers clamoring for the right to install it. But they’re not. They’re clamoring for the right to buy industrial-scale solar from vendors other than Dominion Energy.

If we’re serious about solar energy in Virginia, then we need to get behind industrial-scale solar. Pretending that community-scale solar can contribute more than a small fraction of Virginia’s energy needs is a fantasy. I am astonished that environmentalists aren’t paying more attention. They’re doing everything they can to shut down coal and fossil fuels, and many have signaled their opposition to extending the licenses for the North Anna and Surry nuclear power units. If wind and solar are all that’s left, they’d better make sure we can build those on the grand scale that’s needed. Conversely, if they’re not serious about ensuring large-scale solar development, they sure as heck need to back off their obstruction of other energy sources.

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9 responses to “Solar Developer Pulls Culpeper Application”

  1. thepolichick Avatar

    Too many environmentalists want it both ways, to their credibility detriment, for sure.

    I’d dispute that rooftop solar is not worthy in that, alone it gives people more resilience, especially with better generation storage, and of course, from a national security perspective distributed solar can help guard against the worst in probable future energy conflicts.

    That said, utility scale solar must be in the mix. Since Dominion already makes all solar rough to come by in Virginia (terrible policies that are both protectionist and anti-business) it doesn’t help that a bunch of enviro-NIMBYs made overconfident due to their digital megaphone are also hamstringing progress in our beautiful Commonwealth.

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I wonder what use of those 1,600 acres would be more beneficial in terms of cutting down on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere: covering them with solar panels or planting trees on them? Of course, it would take longer, and be harder, to get a revenue stream from the trees.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    This is not going to stop solar – it’s just going to push it to the counties that do want it.

    It’s shortsighted and really, just plain ignorant to oppose solar – in general as a source of electricity and try to keep it from being built by setting restrictive rules that are much more restrictive than they are for other land uses.

    All these years, all of us got our electricity and the land that supplied the fuel looked like this:

    and not one complaint from the folks who now are opposed to solar nor most of the rest of us – except of course for those leftist enviros!

  4. djrippert Avatar

    Let me see … yet another rural Virginia welfare zone which can’t afford to pay for its own schools, roads, police, jails, etc now wants to turn away incremental tax income.

    The General Assembly needs to calculate the amount of incremental taxes the solar panels would have generated and deduct it from the educational transfer to Culpeper schools. If Hooterville won’t help themselves they should stop getting money from elsewhere in the state.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    EVERY energy source has impacts whether it’s coal, gas, nukes, wind or solar and ALL of them require powerline, pipeline, and other transportation facilities and rights-of-ways not the mention the disposal costs of coal ash and nuclear fuel.

    It make ZERO sense to oppose any one of them on impacts but if you are – then do it on an apples-to-apples basis and be reasonably honest about it.

    If you travel Virginia and have two eyes and half a brain – you can’t help but see the vast amounts of land that are not used – that lie fallow these days. Take a trip to Lynchburg on US 360 – and just casually look side to side at the unused lands… abandoned farmland and pastures, closed businesses… old plants, thousands and thousands of no-longer-used land and we have NIMBYs running amok on solar and wind.

    Back from West trip – THOUSANDS of wind turbines – from Nebraska to Wyoming to Idaho to Oregon to Montana…. dot the landscape.

    The opposition is just become reason… it makes no sense .

  6. djrippert Avatar

    ” … and installations that do not result in the loss of significant farmlands, woodlands, and wildlife habitat.”

    These are subsidy suckers Larry. They get truck loads of money from other areas in Virginia to subsidize their rural lifestyle and they shouldn’t do a damn thing to reduce the amount of other people’s money they are taking. It hurts the “viewshed”. But the high capacity electrical lines running all across urban and suburban Virginia do not hurt the viewshed I guess.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: rural subsidy suckers

      You are right!

      Bacon has for years, talking about folks paying their own location costs with respect to sprawl but these days – there are serious questions about the economic viability of rural; can rural really support itself in the 21st century economy?

      You can argue the other way also because rural supports urban needs with power plants, cattle, chicken, landfills and places tos spread sewage sludge not to mention powerline and pipeline right of ways and interstate highways and of course all those lands that they extract coal and gas from to generate electricity for the urban areas.

      I think it is safe to say that if we passed a law saying that NoVa had to supply ALL of it’s own needs from chickens to electricity – it would look more like a 3rd world city… right?

      but yes, the folks who oppose solar because it has “impacts” are grade A hypocrites if they ignore all the other impacts that are present from existing energy and electricity infrastructure.

  7. RationalThinker Avatar

    Dominion Energy’s two newest natural gas fired power plants in southern Virginia each sit on approximately 515 acres of land. They each have the capability to produce approximately 1500 MW of electricity.

    It would take approximately 6000 acres of solar panels to produce 1500 MW of electricity. (while the sun is shining) Where are you going to site that? Natural Gas is the efficient and environmentally friendly way to go.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    6000 acres sounds like a lot and it is but it’s basically 3 miles square and it does not need a pipeline with a 60 foot right of way that goes for a hundred miles or more whichis many times as much land as the solar takes and that’s not counting the emissions!

    See, the thing is – when we take for granted the current energy mix, we “forget” the full and real impacts.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think we NEED natural gas especially as a source of electricity when we don’t have wind and solar but on the other hand to NOT use wind/solar is dumb because for every killowatt of wind/solar – we need that much less gas !

    This actually IS about rationall thinking not reactive thinking and pre-conceived ideas! Rational Thinking means you take into account ALL the factors if you want a true comparison and it also means that less polluting sources of electricity are still valuable and useful even if they are not available 24/7.

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