Solar company buys $10M in land

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

A global electricity company has purchased $10.8 million in Surry County land in preparation to begin constructing a 240-megawatt, 1,750-acre solar farm that will span Isle of Wight and Surry counties.

Land transfer records from December show multiple deeds, totaling more than 500 acres, to New Sustainable Property Holdings LLC. The company is a subsidiary of the AES Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Arlington, which operates across four continents.

According to AES communications manager Tim Wolf, the purchases are all related to the Cavalier solar farm, which each county’s board of supervisors approved last year. Construction, he said, is slated to begin this spring.

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Roughly 360 acres will be on Isle of Wight’s side of the county line, located along Burwells Bay Road, Jones Drive, Mill Swamp Road and Pons Road.

Surry’s portion is projected to generate about 180 megawatts, and about $16.7 million in tax revenue for the county. Isle of Wight’s portion will generate 60 megawatts, and an estimated $5 million in tax revenue.

Cavalier is a subsidiary of the Salt Lake City, Utah-based utility-scale wind and solar company sPower LLC, which merged with AES in 2020 to form AES Clean Energy.

Once built, Cavalier will become the largest solar farm Surry has approved to date. The fact that AES has spent millions of dollars to acquire land, and will own that land in perpetuity, is also unusual, Wolf confirmed, in an industry that has increasingly relied on lease agreements with local landowners that terminate at the end of a solar farm’s 30- to 40-year lifespan.

“Each project is different,” Wolf said. “Whether the land is purchased or leased by AES is ultimately driven by the wishes of the landowner. Recently, leasing has become the more prominent model in the industry.”

The Cavalier project, he said, will include a mix of leased and purchased land.

In 2021, company officials estimated construction of the solar panels would take roughly 18 months.