South Boston Town Council unanimously approved a permit for a solar project at Monday evening’s meeting after ConEdison Clean Energy made concessions and submitted a new plan.
The total area of the site at Robin Hood Road and Norfolk train tracks is 87.6 acres. Of that, 36.3 acres is fenced-in and 21 acres have been set aside for conservation.
The site was described as a “natural gully” by Lindsay Nelson with ConEdison Clean Energy. Nelson went on to describe how the natural landscape lends itself to this project.
“The existing vegetation, which will remain for the project, provides a wonderful buffer,” she said.
Making sure the 5 megawatt solar farm was hidden from view was an important consideration.
The power produced from the new solar project will go back into family homes in South Boston.
Jeff Lord, vice president of ConEdison Clean Energy, wants the energy to stay local.
“It’s going in local distribution lines so that power will be used right out of the outlets of folks on that distribution line,” Lord said.
The South Boston Planning Commission recommended denying the original plans submitted late last year. Before the issue came before council, developers pulled back to regroup.
A significant point of contention was Robin Hood Road and what would happen if it got destroyed during construction.
Lord said Monday night he understand the importance of Robin Hood Road and has made promises and put protections in place to hold the company accountable.
“Preservation of Robin Hood Road is something we all think is very important,” Lord said before discussing the conditions of building the solar farm. “To make it clear we are responsible.”
Lord then talked about the conditions under which the solar farm must be built.
The facility will not be lit during operations unless there are certain aspects that require it, like emergency services that would need to access the facility at night.
Any lighting during construction must be downward facing and beyond 500 feet from any residential property.
During construction, all vehicles must be in working order. Town and neighborhood liaisons will be designated to take questions and concerns from the town.
Also, adequate sanitation facilities will be present but not within 150 feet of a parcel with a residence on it.
Construction personnel will not be permitted to stay at the site overnight.
ConEdison is responsible for repairing any damages the town sees necessary, to the satisfaction of the town. This obligation can only be released by the town.
A traffic control plan was agreed to that protects Robin Hood Road and the surrounding residents. This includes a staging area where workers go to and from work in vans. This will reduce the amount of traffic on Robin Hood Road due to construction.
Anything delivered that takes a van larger than a UPS truck will have a traffic manager meet the delivery at the top of the road and escort them down to the site, and deliveries will only take place Monday to Friday before 3:30 p.m.
Another part of the solar farm is water retention ponds around the same space as the panels. The storm water retention ponds fill up when it rains and release the water over 24-48 hours.
Matt Hastings, in charge of the ponds, talked about the benefits the community would see after installing the retention ponds in the area. All calculations have already been done and the project can assure there will be less storm water leaving the site when it’s constructed compared to now, he said.
The South Boston solar project is part of the Virginia Shared Solar program. This program requires that 40% of subscribers must be lower income qualified families.
Lord wants all the subscriptions under the Virginia Shared Solar program to go to lower-income qualified families. This program was designed to enable families to participate in clean energy that otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
There are also savings to be had according to Lord, “Works out to about a 10% savings per year for folks.”
Savings come in the form of credits which automatically go on an electric bill. There will be enough credits to serve between 1,000 and 1,500 households.
After Lord, Nelson and Hastings briefed council about plans for the project, discussion was then opened up to the community in the form of a public hearing.
Multiple people stepped forward in favor of the project and no one dissented.
Mike Harris owns land adjacent to where the panels will be built.
“Anything that helps lessen the taxload, I’m definitely in favor of,” Harris aid.
Earl Howerton, executive director of the Southside Outreach Group, works to provide housing to low-income families.
He was excited to hear about solar panels coming in and wanted to give them to some of his families.
“I definitely think they could benefit from that program,” he said.
Council approved the special use permit for the project by unanimous vote.