Solar farm in Albemarle County to provide power to 25,000 homes
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- By next summer, work is expected to begin on a large solar farm in southern Albemarle County.
A local company, Hexagon Energy, has been in the solar industry for eight years. After roughly a year of discussions with the county, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved the 35-megawatt solar farm that will be located off Route 708.
This project will not only create clean energy but will also promote more environmental solutions to fight climate change, without impacting the residents who live near the farm.
Officials say 25,000 will be able to turn on their lights with the power from the new solar farm.
"This is the first major solar industrial installation in Albemarle County," said Supervisor Donna Price, the chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
On April 5, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved this development, which Price says will benefit 60,000 people, even if they live outside the county lines.
"A few people have said, you know Donna, that electricity is not staying in Albemarle County, it's going to go somewhere else. And that's true to an extent. Once the electricity is generated it goes up to the power lines and it gets transmitted to wherever it's going to go," said Price.
Scott Remer, the Director of Development with Hexagon Energy, says this is a huge project, with an estimated price tag of $220 million. The farm will have more than 400,000 panels measuring three feet by six feet and sitting three feet off the ground. Each one will follow the track of the sun throughout the day.
"They track the sun from east to west. So they go from, in the morning they're facing east, as the sun comes up, they're tilted that way. And then throughout the day, they follow the sun and they tilt to the west. Which means they increase their efficiency. So we end up getting a lot more power out of them than if we were to just set it still in the ground," Remer said.
He says that the 2,300 acres of land will be used for more than just solar.
"What we're doing on this project is working on a degraded site that has been heavily timbered for about 80 years. And we're going to actually be installing hundreds, hundreds, even perhaps a thousand, depending on how you count it, acres of native bee and butterfly plantings that help foster pollinators in the area. So, not only does it have no negative impact, it actually has a positive impact. And that's not even related to the power that it generates," said Remer.
He also says that finding land for a solar farm is no easy feat, but this area fits all of the criteria.
"You need a site that's acceptable with acceptable topography. Hopefully, a site that can stand to benefit and not be degraded and cleared. Additionally, you need a way to connect that project to the grid," Remer said.
The project will take It will take 12 to 18 months to complete and will get started next summer.
"We expect by next summer they will start the construction. And then once they're finished we'll be turning on our lights," Price said.
Price says that if this land is no longer used for electric energy production at some point in the future, it will be restored to agricultural and forestry use.
Both Price and Remer say that this will be a modal for other communities to follow, but it's unlikely the county will see very many large solar farms in the future, because of the limited land and mountain terrain.
However, there could be more small roof-top solar panels coming to a neighborhood near you.