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Solar plant awaits state permit

What’s the latest on the solar project in Buckingham?

Construction of Virginia Solar LLC’s $35 million solar energy facility in Buckingham County is pending approval of the firm’s Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Solar Permit by Rule (PBR) application.

The PBR requires that the solar plant go through steps to ensure that construction and implementation of the plant will not disrupt the surrounding environment.

According to the DEQ, “The Solar PBR Guidance addresses pre-construction natural resource analyses, mitigation plans, post-construction monitoring, and other PBR requirements and issues. Where appropriate, the Guidance discusses methods of performing the required regulatory tasks.”

Matthew Meares, Sunworks LLC managing director, said the permit process “takes varying lengths depending on the site.”

One required step of applicants for a PBR is to provide at least 30 days for the public to comment on the technical and regulatory aspects of the proposal, according to the DEQ website.

According to Meares, Sunworks LLC held a community meeting May 19.

“Nobody showed up at the community meeting other than the landowner,” said Meares. “Needless to say, the landowner was in favor.”

According to Meares, no other comments have been filed either as part of the meeting or the public review process in general.

Virginia Solar has submitted its PBR application to DEQ and is “awaiting their feedback,” Meares said.

If approved by regulators, the solar energy facility will be built at 623 High Rock Road in Buckingham. It is expected to return 10 percent of project costs, or roughly $3.5 million, back to the community. According to the permit request sent to the Buckingham Board of Supervisors, the facility will include ancillary support facilities and electrical interconnections with a generating capacity of 20 megawatts of electrical energy to be transmitted on an electric utility’s distribution line. According to Virginia Solar, the project could produce 40 kilowatt hours of electricity, or enough energy to power up to 4,500 homes.

Up to 150 workers could be employed during construction, according to the permit application.

The project was approved in November by Buckingham supervisors.

According to Meares, in order for construction to begin, the firm must receive site plan approval from the county, VDOT approval of access points and DEQ approval of stormwater management and erosion control.

Meares said: “I am only waiting on the state at the moment. We are not going to file the county and VDOT permits until the state permit is complete.”

He said “the county and VDOT have been very good to work with.”

“I would like to hope I will have the state permit by the end of the year. Then we will file the VDOT and county permits,” Meares said.