Solar blitz begs more questions

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Regarding utility-scale solar facilities, Surry eyeing restrictions and Isle of Wight pondering a moratorium:

HB1526 is on Virginia’s two power utilities to go 100% renewable by 2050, and does not mandate any county to host any solar facility. PJM Balance Authority opens Virginia Utilities to purchase renewable energy from North Carolina to New Jersey.

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The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) leaves out “economy.” Based on their enormity and replacement fuel cost, these solar facilities do not bring much to the counties. Counties only collect machinery and tool taxes based on land use, but there are 80% tax exemption up to 20MW.

Traditional utility power plant components were made throughout the U.S., but U.S. solar manufacturers have mostly been left out of utility scale facilities. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is the U.S. solar industry national trade association. Solar developers proposing sites in Virginia are SEIA members. Well, SEIA lobbied against US tariffs on Communist China solar panels, and in May the U.S. president placed a two-year moratorium to lift the tariffs.

A solar developer had emailed me stating they cannot buy USA products for financial reasons, after I sat in on a Planning Commission meeting and a solar developer stated they would use nothing but “made in the USA” products.

U.S. panel manufacturer(s) have advised the U.S. of Communist China “dumping” their panels to be sold out of Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia to avoid tariffs.

Moratoriums and restrictions must go beyond the developers, but cover the operators as well.   The solar blitz is coming, and PJM has queued Surry and Isle of Wight at 1250 and 1067MW solar facilities. This translates into 12,500 and 10,670 acres for Surry and IW, respectively.  Sadly, with solar’s low capacity factors these Nameplated MW translates to low power of the equivalent of 238 and 203 MWs for Surry and IW, respectively. So, more will be coming. Solar developers avoid mentioning Nameplate MW and capacity factor.

It only appears that the counties have not been equipped to ask the correct questions and that the solar developers have not been honest.


David Tucker

Professional engineer

North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners associate