Halifax County’s capital improvements plan grew by $1 million Tuesday courtesy of Consolidated Edison Development, in part to compensate for the lack of revenue the county will garner through tax revenues from a proposed solar facility locating in the northern part of the county.
“It’s important that our projects not only deliver clean reliable energy to the grid, but they also become an important part of the local community,” said Mark Noyes, president and CEO of Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, in making the announcement on Tuesday. “We are pleased to demonstrate our support of the Halifax County community and recognize their commitment to a sustainable future with this donation.”
Con Edison Development, one of the Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses and the owner of Water Strider Solar, announced Tuesday it will be making a financial donation of $1 million to Halifax County’s capital improvement plan in 2020. The donation will be utilized at the county’s discretion to fund capital improvements such as broadband services, school facilities, fire and emergency response needs and more — all for the benefit of the county’s residents.
Consolidated Edison Development, headquartered in New York, New York, develops, owns and operates renewable and energy infrastructure projects.
It offers gas storage facility, contracted gas storage service, gas fired combine cycle power station that generates electricity, produces heat and carbon dioxide for sale to local greenhouses and is contracting with Geenex to manage an 80-megwatt solar facility, known as the Water Strider project in Nathalie.
Con Edison Development’s donation stems from the company’s Water Strider Solar facility, which is on track to become one of the first solar facilities constructed in Halifax County.
The 80 MW AC solar facility received its conditional use permit from the county in May 2018 and is planned for 960 acres fronting Stage Coach Road at 1100 Jenny’s Ruff Trail in Nathalie.
Supervisors Dennis Witt and J. T. Davis along with County Administrator Scott Simpson also have been actively involved at both the local and state level to ensure solar facilities are financially beneficial to the communities in which they are developed.
“This generous donation by Con Edison Development to our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) will be a big ‘shot in the arm’ financially for Halifax County,” said Davis.
“By dedicating the contribution to the CIP, the monies can be allocated over time to various needs such as fire and rescue, broadband, etc. as they arise. I have worked closely with the developers from the beginning, since the Water Strider solar facility is located in District 1 which I represent,” Davis added. “This voluntary contribution certainly displays Con Edison Development’s willingness to be a good neighbor, and we do applaud them.”
Working alongside Geenex Solar, the original developer of the project, Con Edison Development plans to begin construction early next year with a goal of completing construction by December 2020. The electricity generated by the project will help Virginia reach its renewable energy goals through a Power Purchase Agreement with Virginia Electric and Power Company.
In late 2017, the Halifax County Board of Supervisors was proactive in developing a comprehensive utility-scale solar ordinance. The board was particularly concerned with how potential solar projects would fit into the local communities.
Requiring solar facilities to provide vegetative screening, incorporate pollinators and address future decommissioning plans are important regulations within the county’s ordinance under which Water Strider Solar was permitted.
Supervisors voted 5-3 in March to table any consideration of future conditional use permits for proposed solar facilities in Halifax County, after approving six of seven conditional use applications, including the one for the Water Strider project.
A primary reason for the moratorium was that the 20% taxable value of solar facilities is not a sufficient return for Halifax County.
County officials such as Davis contend the 20% taxable value of solar facilities is not a sufficient return for Halifax County with the economic benefits of any solar facility not justifying the long-term impacts of the facility.
The state’s 80% tax abatement for solar facilities deprives the county of potential tax revenues that could become available with other possible uses of the parcel.
Davis termed the current percentage as “lopsided.
“It was developed by the governor’s office, and we had no say in that whatsoever,” he added. “I can understand green energy, but we’re getting only 20%. What we’re doing is tying up our land for 30-plus years, and we look at it as exporting a natural resource which is sunlight converted into electricity which is used in Northern Virginia.
“We should be compensated fairly for that, and 80-20 is not fair,” continued Davis, adding that a consortium of counties have been working with the solar industry to draft legislation for the upcoming session that will address this issue.
County officials are encouraging solar developers to be “good neighbors” to localities in which they locate, considering the low return from solar facilities within their borders, according to Davis.
And that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday when Con Edison made its announcement it will be writing a check to the county for $1 million.
“They have been very receptive and have listened to our needs,” explained Davis. “We have explained we have dire needs in a number of areas, fire and rescue is one, schools is one, broadband is another one.”
Davis said he believes the location of solar facilities should be a competitive process where localities have some input on tax abatement percentages.
“We’re a poor county and need all the revenue we can get,” added Davis. “Landing industry is not easy, and raising taxes is not easy, and there has to be a balance. When somebody comes in we want to enhance our tax base as much as possible.”
Witt, the current board chairman, is serving as chairman for the consortium of counties that has been trying to negotiate a better deal than the current 80-20 split, Davis noted.
“This group has made major headway,” said Davis. “I don’t know how it will filter out at the end of the day, but we hope to be on the same page with the legislation that 80-20 is not a fair shake.”
When Davis and Witt testified before the finance committee of the Virginia House of Delegates on the compensation issue, they noted the 1% sales tax earmarked for renovation or construction of schools in Halifax County may have influenced some legislators to see their side of the story in terms of the county trying hard to secure new sources of revenue.
“We mentioned the 1% sales tax could level the playing field a little bit more,” said Davis. “How much that played into it, I don’t know, but we planted a seed that they needed to do something to compensate us.”
Water Strider solar is one of six facilities currently permitted in Halifax County to reach the construction phase, according to Witt, who added, “We are excited to have a great partner in our county.
“Halifax County citizens will all benefit from this significant contribution to our capital improvement plan. We offer our sincere thanks and appreciation to Con Edison Development for helping position the county to address our capital needs,” he added.
About Con Edison Development
Con Edison Development (CED) develops, owns and operates renewable and energy infrastructure projects. With its expertise in project development, maintenance and asset management, CED currently owns and operates facilities generating more than 3300 MW DC / 2600 MW AC of renewable power across the United States.
The company is one of the largest owners and operators of solar projects in North America. CED is focusing on energy infrastructure assets as a key component of its growth strategy and an overall corporate goal of responsible environmental stewardship.
More information can be obtained by calling 914- 993-2185 or visiting their website at www.coneddev.com.
About Geenex Solar
Geenex Solar is a greenfield developer of utility-scale solar projects. Geenex is skilled in all aspects of solar project development including site evaluation, real estate procurement, facility and interconnection engineering, environmental analysis as well as federal, state and local permitting.
Geenex Solar’s experienced and community-focused team ensures a solar project’s successful navigation of the development process from its initial stages through to its delivery of clean, reliable power to the grid. Geenex — Simply Solar.
Visit www.geenexsolar.com for more information.