Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Large solar facility OK'd
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Sep 3, 2014, 14:33

CHESTERFIELD — The Board of Supervisors last week approved what will become the largest solar power generation facility in Virginia.

The facility would be on 25 acres in Enon and would produce 2.2 megawatts of electricity, or about enough to power about 550 homes.

The facility would be at the Philip Morris plant at the far eastern end of Bermuda Hundred Road near the James River and just north of City Point in Hopewell.

Dominion Virginia Power requested rezoning the 26.8 acres from agricultural to heavy industrial plus a conditional use permit to build and operate a solar electric power generation facility on 24.8 acres, the equivalent of more than 18 football fields.

During the Aug. 19 Planning Commission, an attorney working to get the project approved gave details of the plan.

Brennen Keene said the solar power plant would be just south of two warehouses on the western edge of the property. The land there is split with half zoned as agricultural and half industrial. This project wouldn’t have to go through the zoning process if it had not been for the portion of land zoned as agricultural.

It also would already have been allowed if the solar panels didn’t create more electricity than was consumed on the property. But this project wouldn’t fit that criteria because Philip Morris has its own substation and gets power from the main power network.

The power generated by this solar plant will go directly into the distribution network.

Chesterfield county staff recommended approval for the facility as long as several conditions were met:

- Install a security fence that is a minimum of 9 feet tall.

- The facility shall not be lit except for security lighting.

- An anti-reflective surface treatment shall be applied so as to not produce glare

- The maximum height of the panels shall not exceed 12 feet.

- The facility shall be completely dismantled within 12 months if the plant is no longer in use.

The facility fits in with the county’s Comprehensive Plan and staff said that it was in line with efforts to promote green energy. 500 acres at the Philip Morris site are already zoned industrial and other major industrial sites are nearby.

“This is a very simple, unobtrusive solar installation,” Keene said.

There will be an observation platform built on the location so school groups can come look at it.

This solar project would consist of a field of photovoltaic panels on racking structures that directly convert the sun’s rays into electricity.

Addressing worries by some neighbors, Keene said this is very different than a solar plant that uses mirrors to reflects sunlight to a central boiler, a type of plant that has been criticized for incinerating birds.

The plan was approved unanimously by the Planning Commission with one member abstaining. It went before the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 27 and was approved with little discussion. It was approved unanimously with Clover Hill Art Warren abstaining.

The plant is part of an effort by Dominion Virginia Power to build between 30 and 50 solar facilities across Virginia.

In November 2012, the State Corporation Commission gave Dominion approval to begin building solar facilities at commercial, industrial, and public government locations. Two large rooftop installations were recently completed at Old Dominion University in Norfolk and Canon Environmental Technologies in Gloucester.

When fully implemented, Dominion said its solar program will generate up to 30 megawatts of power, enough to power about 7,500 homes.

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