As solar energy gains traction in Campbell County — with its first solar farm slated to begin construction in late fall — another could be on the way after the county planning commission recommended approval for a solar facility Monday night.
After a 1,200-acre solar farm was approved in September 2018, a 150-acre solar farm project was approved near Rustburg that November. The proposed Caden Energix Gladys LLC 660-acre solar facility would be the third facility in the county if it garners supervisor approval at their Nov. 7 meeting.
The Campbell planning commission unanimously approved recommendation for the Caden Energix Gladys project, which would be located off of Gladys Road, about 4 miles southwest of Gladys.
Caden Energix is a renewable energy company headquartered in Richmond with nine projects in various stages of development across the state.
The project site is on two parcels totaling 1,107 acres, though the solar energy facility itself would be constructed on about 660 acres of the property. The amount of energy generated over the course of one year at the 60 megawatt facility would be enough to power about 12,000 single-family homes, according to the project proposal, and would connect to an existing Dominion Virginia Power transmission line running through the property — though Dominion will not necessarily be purchasing power from the project.
Caden Energix is leasing the land from Weyerhaeuser Company, which owns the parcels.
According to Ken Niemann, senior vice president of development for Caden Energix, who spoke before the planning commission on Monday night, the project does not yet have a contract in place for the power the site will produce, though they expect to find a buyer after all necessary permits are in place.
Niemann added there is a “substantial appetite” for solar in Virginia.
“If you build it, they will come. There is a market for this power,” Niemann said.
According to the application for the special use permit, the project is estimated to create about 170 full-time-equivalent jobs during construction — a process expected to last about eight to 10 months — and about four full-time-equivalent jobs for ongoing operations. Niemann said the company expects to source a majority of the jobs locally.
The Gladys solar project is expected to contribute $55,000 per year in property and other taxes to Campbell County over an anticipated 35-year life — ultimately, generating about $1.5 million in revenue for the county.
Brookneal District Representative Dean Monroe voiced his support of the proposed solar facility, which would be constructed in his district. He said Caden Energix seemed willing to work with suggestions as they arose, and he had heard no real resident opposition to the project.
“It sits over in a place where it’s pretty much constructed out of sight,” Monroe said. “I like solar. And these are the kind of things I do like: a large facility, out of sight.”
The proposed solar facility site is in a remote area, with natural vegetation and topography which limits visibility from neighboring parcels. The project designs include an approximate 100-foot setback on all sides, plus additional setbacks and supplemental vegetation in select areas to minimize visual effects.
Campbell resident Carey Douglas voiced concerns he would be able to see the panels from his home, which sits on a property bordering the proposed site.
Niemann attempted to address the concerns, referencing the 100-foot setback and a willingness to plant further barriers between Douglas’ land and the solar site.
The proposal was approved by the planning commission with the addendum the installer will maintain the natural buffer — specifying any vegetative barriers that start on the site plan are maintained over the course of the project.
If the project is approved by supervisors and acquires all the necessary permitting, construction is estimated to begin in late 2020 and be operational mid-2021. The project has a decommissioning plan that ensures Caden Energix will remove all structures and foundations, restore soil and vegetation and provide the necessary financial resources after the project’s life is up.
The board of supervisors will hear the request at its Nov. 7 meeting.
Sarah Honosky covers Appomattox and Campbell counties at The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5556.