Isle of Wight votes 4-1 to approve solar farm expansion

Published 3:20 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Isle of Wight County supervisors voted 4-1 on Jan. 19 to approve a developer’s request to add acreage to a planned solar farm.

SolarGen of Virginia LLC, a subsidiary of Colorado-based Aquasan, had received supervisors’ approval in 2019 to build a 55-megawatt, roughly 300-acre project named the Ho-Fel solar farm on Lees Mill Road near International Paper’s Franklin mill. Asheville, North Carolina-based Pine Gate Renewables has since purchased the project – which has yet to break ground – and had proposed expanding the facility last year by roughly 18 additional acres.

The proposal calls for the solar panels to be spaced further apart, which is why the extra acreage is needed, according to company officials. The project is now estimated to generate 40 megawatts rather than 55.

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Carrsville-area Supervisor Don Rosie cast the dissenting vote.

Supervisors also voted to approve a siting agreement that specifies Pine Gate will pay either the traditional machinery and tools tax rate or a $1,400-per-megawatt payment in lieu of M&T taxes, depending on which is higher. The per-megawatt payment will escalate by 10% every five years for the estimated 40-year lifespan of the project, per legislation Virginia’s General Assembly passed in 2020 allowing the payment in lieu of M&T taxes.

Factoring in both the per-megawatt payment and estimated real estate tax revenue, the project is estimated to bring a total of $4.5 million to Isle of Wight over 40 years – up from the $3.3 million estimated in 2019. The vote to approve the siting agreement also passed 4-1 with Rosie dissenting.

Ho-Fel is one of six solar farms approved for Isle of Wight County, though only one – a 180-acre Longwood Drive facility known as Woodland – is operational.