Surry supervisors reject Spring Grove solar farm

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Surry County supervisors rejected a proposed 150-megawatt solar farm in Spring Grove on Aug. 4, putting an end to the project’s nearly three years on the drawing board.

Charlottesville-based Hexagon Energy submitted plans to the county in 2020 for the “Loblolly Solar” facility, as it was named, which would have been sited on 900 acres of timberland at the intersections of Routes 10 and 40. Oakland, California-based Primergy Solar took over as the project’s lead developer earlier this year.

The company had requested an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan, rezoning, a conditional use permit, siting agreement and resolution declaring the project “substantially in accord” with the revised plan. The supervisors voted 3-0 to deny each request, with Supervisor Timothy Calhoun abstaining due to his employment with Dominion Energy and the Dendron District supervisor seat vacant.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Supervisor Robert Elliott, who made each motion to deny, stated during the vote on the conditional use permit that the proposed 22 conditions did not sufficiently “mitigate the adverse impact associated with the project.” The supervisors had heard a mix of support and opposition to the project during its June 16 public hearing on the matter.

Prior to the vote, the supervisors allowed Kathryn Meyer, Primergy’s senior project manager, to address them one final time.

“The existing solar projects in Surry County have left a lot to be desired and county residents have made it clear that they’ve been dissatisfied by their experience. … As we designed Loblolly Solar, it was important to us that we learned from those projects and followed the guidance of the comprehensive plan to ensure that Loblolly was the best possible project for Surry County,” Meyer said, pledging that the project would have avoided “any impact whatsoever” to the view from nearby homes and roads due to the “unique existing mature natural tree buffer” proposed to surround the solar farm.

The project, Meyer added, would have provided the county an estimated $19 million in tax revenue over its 40-year lifespan, up from the originally proposed $16 million. The siting agreement had proposed an additional $625,000 payment upon approval of the requested rezoning and conditional use permit — $125,000 of which would have gone to Surry County Public Schools — as well as a $1,400 per month per megawatt payment.

Primergy had also offered the 100 residents whose properties would have bordered the solar farm a $100 per month rebate on their electric bills via a proposed partnership with Dominion Energy and local electric cooperatives. The program, according to Meyer, would have been the first of its kind in the nation.