Concerns and Responses

CONCERNS AND RESPONSES

sPower and the Spotsylvania Solar Energy Center team have heard your questions and concerns and we’d like to address each of them here. If you have additional questions or concerns that are not listed in this grid, feel free to reach out to info@spotsylvania-solar.com.

Concern/ClaimsPower's ResponseNotes/Comments
Thousands of acres are to be cleared if the project is approved.All current timber management and harvesting practices are being conducted by the current property owner.It is worth noting that these stands are on a 20-year harvest rotation, which means the current clear cut conditions are nothing new or out of the ordinary, and future clear cuts would be anticipated if the property stays in current land use.
Taxes will go upThis is incorrect.The s Power proposed site will actually generate more tax revenue to include approaximately $10 million vs. $700,000 as compared to current tax rate
Consumer price for electricity will go upThe project is selling into the PJM wholesale market, and has no impact on the cost of electricity for a VA rate payer. The VA electricity rate are exclusively determined by the SCC.The SCC has determined our project will have no impact on consumer rates
Property values will go downThere is no evidence for this, nor is there a clear consensus on the effect of solar farms on neighboring property values, positive or negative.Values of real estate has more to do with location and market. The Fawn Lake community will see no adverse impact to property values due to this project. To conclude otherwise is mere speculation.
Water pressure is going to go down and access to well water will be diminished.This is untrue. sPower has made the commitment to utilize only municipal water, and will consider groundwater only during the emergency scenario of a municipal water system failure (which would be capped at 10 days of use). sPower has also committed to a private/public partnership to enhance the municipal water system with the county.sPower has agreed to pay for municipal water as opposed to on-site wells for groundwater. Furthermore, when approached by Spotsylvania County regarding water utility improvements which had been contemplated for years, but lacked sufficient county funding, sPower agreed to a public-private partnership to cost-share the improvements. sPower feels this has been addressed and clarified multiple times.
Toxic runoff and contamination of our water supplyCadmium Telluride is not the same thing as free Cadmium. Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) is an extremely stable, nontoxic compound. sPower has provided thorough evidence and research to County Staff demonstrating the chemical stability of CdTe. This research has demonstrated Cadmium Telluride is non-toxic, and passes EPA standards for environmental and human health and safety.Refer to the CdTe panel safety and integrity Executive Summary previously provided to County Staff (Exhibit 1)
The 5th largest in the United States. All of the four larger U.S. solar power plants (above 500 MW) are located in remote desert areas of California and Nevada. Furthermore, all 14 solar power plants in the U.S. that are 250 MW or greater are in California, Nevada and Arizona.As the price for solar has dropped, solar energy has become cost-effective in areas, such as Virginia, that previously were not cost-competitive and solar facilities can operate in new environments outside of deserts.Renwables are becoming a more in demand energy supply and technology offtakers are driving much of this demand
The “solar heat island effect” could significantly impact the local climate of the site and surrounding areas. This risk is scale dependent, and much more research is needed to understand and mitigate the impacts in this region, near residential neighborhoods, farms, schools. Current studies of this effect are based on 1 MW facilities. One megawatt. The Spotsylvania plant ... is 500 MW.While it is true that temperatures within the solar field may be a few degrees higher than the surrounding area, studies have found that the temperature difference dissipates quickly in just a few feet above and away from the solar site, especially with vegetation and trees, and berms. The data also demonstrates the solar fields cool-off completely at night, making heat-island effect unlikely. The research also indicates that scale should have no effect on these findings as the solar fields increase in size.Refer to the Heat Island Effect Executive Summary previously provided to County Staff (Exhibit 2)
sPower needs more than 200 million gallons of water during 18 months of construction. (The company originally estimated more than 300 million gallons. After Concerned Citizens first flagged this as a danger to the aquifer, sPower reduced the estimate.) In any event, sPower plans to withdraw the water they need from new large wells. The state will not impose restrictions on water usage. Any restrictions must be imposed by the county via the Special Use Permit conditions.After listening to community concerns, sPower has redesigned the grading and developments plans for the project that were initially proposed, which consequently reduced the anticipated water need to less than 100,000 gallons per day. It is worth noting this new grading plan comes at a considerable economic cost. sPower has made the commitment to utilize only municipal water, and will consider groundwater only during the emergency scenario of a municipal water system failure (which would be capped at 10 days of use). sPower has also committed to a private/public partnership to enhance the municipal water system with the county. Power has a greed to public-private partnership to cost-share the improvements.
In addition, sPower estimates that 8 million gallons per year is needed during operation. The water will be used for landscaping and panel washing. Peak loads during panel washing could be millions of gallons in a few days.This is inaccurate. Water usage will be minimal during the operations phase of the project. Spotsylvania County receives more than enough annual precipitation to render panel washing unnecessary.
Excessive extraction of water from new large capacity wells could lower groundwater levels and irreversibly damage the aquifer.This is no longer an issue. sPower has made the commitment to utilize only municipal water, and will consider groundwater only during the emergency scenario of a municipal water system failure (which would be capped at 10 days of use).
A recent geology study by GEO SEER concludes: “The local aquifer is not robust enough to sustain industrial taps in quantity to supply water to a solar power site of the proposed magnitude... The current plan, as provided by sPower, would lead to the collapse of the area aquifer.”This is no longer an issue. sPower has made the commitment to utilize only municipal water.
There are thousands of households that depend on well water in Spotsylvania County. Many of these residents report problems with their wells during periods of drought. Further stress on the aquifer could exacerbate the problems, requiring Spotsylvania County to spend millions of dollars to supply drinking water.This is no longer an issue. sPower has made the commitment to utilize only municipal water.
This is no longer an issue. sPower has made the commitment to utilize only municipal water, and will consider groundwater only during the emergency scenario of a municipal water system failure (which would be capped at 10 days of use).This is no longer an issue. sPower has made the commitment to utilize only municipal water.
The 1.8 million photovoltaic solar panels will contain approximately 100,000 pounds of Cadmium, which is a highly toxic carcinogen.Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) is not the same as raw Cadmium. Cadmium Telluride is incredible stable and passes EPA standards for environmental health and safety.Refer to the CdTe panel safety and integrity Executive Summary previously provided to County Staff (Exhibit 1) . Also, although the issue is moot given the stability of CdTe, CCSC's calculations seems to be inaccurate: Each CdTe panel only contains 7g of CdTe (which is, again inert). sPower is only proposing to put 440,000 CdTe panels on site.
7g x 440,000= 3,080,000g
=6,790 lbs. (inert)
sPower denies any health risk from the Cadmium in the panels, but scientific studies show that leaching of Cadmium from broken panels occurs over time. Scientific studies show very high quantities of Cadmium can leach out in a few months in acidic conditions. Our soil and Virginia clay are acidic, so rapid and thorough cleanup of any damaged Cadmium-containing panels is critical.The one (1) study the citizens are referring to is "Leaching of cadmium and tellurium from cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar panels under simulated landfill conditions" by Ramos-Ruiz et al. It is worth noting this particular study does not simulate real-world conditions for several reasons, and the citizens neglect to mention all of the study's findings: in particular that the results from the EPA TCLP analysis were negligible.Please note above reference
Toxic chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides should be carefully controlled and only applied by certified professionals.sPower agrees and will follow all applicable permits for the application of these substances.
Cleaning agents may also be toxic to the environment. sPower indicates that cleaning agents will not be used, as such would void their warranties on solar panels.This is correct, and as mentioned previously, there is no anticipated need to clean the panels due to the high amount of precipitation in the county.
Severe weather such as a tornado, hurricane, or derecho -- now somewhat common occurrences in central Virginia, and typically accompanied by heavy rains -- could cause widespread destruction of solar panels and subsequent leaching of Cadmium, followed by toxic and carcinogenic runoff into Spotsylvania's water supply.These panels are designed to withstand sever weather events. In the instance a panel is damaged, our real-time monitoring systems will allow us to identify and replace damaged panels instantly.Refer to the CdTe panel safety and integrity Executive Summary previously provided to County Staff (Exhibit 1)
sPower has not produced any scientific reports that show what happens to the Cadmium contained in solar panels during such a catastrophic event. We know that tornados and hurricanes have hit large solar plants - where are the scientific reports of what was found, and how it was cleaned up?We have provided a whole Executive Summary containing multiple studies on the topic.Refer to the CdTe panel safety and integrity Executive Summary previously provided to County Staff (Exhibit 1)
Consider the possibility of a lightning strike and fire. The site will have hundreds of thousands of steel piles driven in the ground attached to metal frames - magnets for lightning. This in an area the size of Fredericksburg with a few gravel roads, no fire hydrants, no fire station. How will our emergency responders be able to handle it?sPower has coordinated with county FREM and discussed fire safety and emergency response access, which is covered in our Emergency Response Plans, which were provided to County Staff.Refer to the Emergency Response Plans during both Construction and Operations (Exhibits 3 and 4)
Most of the 6,350 forested acres have been logged and will be cleared. Significant soil regrading is anticipated to provide vast flat fields for the solar panels.sPower has made significant and costly modifications to our grading plan, reducing the amount of grading and earthwork than what was previously proposed. Also, the project will be phased with only 400 acres open and active at any one time in any one watershed.
Specific plans are needed to prevent severe muddy runoff problems, such as recently encountered in Essex County due to construction of a 200 acre solar farm -- after only 1/2" of rainsPower has committed to several Stormwater and Erosion control measure that go above and beyond what is required by county and state regulations, including but not limited to: sediment basins that are over-sized for their respective drainage areas, an accelerated sediment removal regime (cleaning the basins twice as frequently as required), diversion ditches on top of proposed slope to further divert and slow runoff, and stormwater conveyance channels and ditches at full design (a level of design effort reserved for the site development plan stage). Spotsylvania County has reviewed and approved these designs.
The soil in our area is not hydric, so rainwater will not percolate into the soil, but instead will rapidly runoff the Virginia clay which will be exposed by regrading the site. As noted on our Toxic Materials page, if the runoff contains such materials, big problems might arise such as water contamination, killing of fish and the endangered dwarf wedgemussel, etc.See the above mentioned additional/excessive runoff control measures. Also, as previously stated above, runoff containing CdTe is not a concern.
Several environmentally important streams run through the property. Robertson Run and McCracken Creek are designated Threatened and Endangered Species Waters. Runoff would flow into the Po, Mattaponi, and York Rivers, and then into the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, Plentiful Creek has a “moderate” environmental significance rating. These waterways and wetlands must be protected to avoid environmental harm, which could flow all the way into the Chesapeake.All streams and wetlands have 50' designated Resource Protection Area (RPA) buffers surrounding them, as well as the above mentioned additional/excessive runoff control measures. Besides coordinating with County staff, sPower has coordinated and consulted with all relevant State and Federal agencies and will follow all applicable permits and regulations to ensure natural resource protections.
The reason that sPower must buy 6350 acres to install 3500 acres of solar panels is because the rest of the site is either wetlands, or is too steep to install panels. This site has a lot of streams and wetlands. It is not the typical topography for a solar power plant of this size. The environmental risks here are much greater.All streams and wetlands have 100' designated Resource Protection Area (RPA) buffers surrounding them, as well as the above mentioned additional/excessive runoff control measures. Besides coordinating with County staff, sPower has coordinated and consulted with all relevant State and Federal agencies and will follow all applicable permits and regulations to ensure natural resource protections.
The County has stated that site preparation must be done in stages, limited to 400 acres at a time. Soil stabilization and stormwater management measures must be in place before any additional land is disturbed. Concerned Citizens supports a staged approach. We recommend that rather than building the entire site at once, that the project be phased in over a period of five or more years, allowing the county board and staff adequate time to review each phase and address development concerns, and requiring sPower to address and mitigate them before further expanding the site. This step-wise approach is prudent given the unprecedented size of the proposed facility.The project will be completed in Phases and land disturbance will be limited to 400 acres per watershed. All land disturbance plans are permitted and approved through the county and the state.
Strict controls are needed covering selection and application of chemicals used during construction (e.g. herbicides to clear vegetation) and operation (e.g. fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, cleaning agents).sPower agrees and will follow all applicable permits for the application of these substances.
sPower has indicated that they will not use biosolids to condition soil. (Biosolids, if used, could pollute the groundwater and drinking water drawn from the rivers downstream.)This is correct.
sPower is establishing Pleinmont Solar, LLC and four other LLCs for the construction and operation of this facility.This is correct and each one of these LLCs are wholly owned subsidiaries of sPower.
sPower’s initial estimate for the decommissioning bond was a mere $1.2 million. They recently increased it to $5.4 million after taking generous credits for the value of recycled materials. Our estimates indicate that the bond should be about $100,000 per MW, or about $50 millionsPower and our construction partners' successful track record of developing several gigawatts of solar energy, and years of industry experience allows us to be comfortable in our estimates. Additionally, the solar panel have value beyond the life of the project and would be reused/redeployed in the event of a decommissioning.
Costs for decommissioning and removing all of the equipment, and remediating any contamination must be guaranteed not only from the subsidiary LLCs, but also sPower corporation, the actual operator of the facility.The Decommissioning Bond is guaranteed by third party bonding and given the value of the assets for this project and financing for the same, we are confident the project will be viable for the long term as an ongoing operational generation facility.
If the site is abandoned, then the County and State -- and we the taxpayers -- will have a large toxic waste site to clean up. Without an adequate bond, we also will not have the money for the cleanupThe site will not be abandoned; sPower has 15-year offtaker contracts with AAA+ credit rated entities. The site is not toxic. Any bond posted will be more than adequate and reviewed on a 2-year basis.
Further, the restoration of the site to its original condition is likely not achievable, or will be many years after the decommissioning of the power plant.If in 35 years sPower decides to decommission the site, rather than renew or extend operations, and the county wishes the property to return to it's original land use, reversion back to timberland will take the same amount of time as after a clear-cut under current use.
The proposed power plant must not detract from that aspect and the character of our community.sPower has conducted an archeological survey of the proposed project property and submitted it to the Virginia DHR for review. Concurrence of no adverse impact was received 9/10/18
However, sPower's site plan does not support that claim. They plan to install solar panels as close as 50 ft from their property line, and not provide any sight or sound barriers around most of the perimeterThis is incorrect. The project has designs for setbacks of 150-400 feet from the property line, vegetated berms ranging from 6-8 ft, and 50 ft vegetated visual buffers around the property. sPower has also conducted noise impact studies in order to mitigate construction noise. All visual simulations and designs and noise studies have been submitted to County Staff.
There are many ways that this privately owned commercial enterprise -- a heavily subsidized speculative investment propped up by price guarantees -- might adversely affect taxpayers: through increased electricity rates, potential bankruptcies of the "limited liability" corporations established to build and operate it once the current huge federal and state subsidies expire, and potential loss in property values and thus the principal tax basis of the county. And eventually, the cost to clean up the site.1. Electricity rates will not be affected. 2. sPower will be posting a decommissioning bond to cover removal of the project in the unlikely event anything goes South. 3. There is no clear consensus or indication of the effect on property values, positive or negative.

About sPower: Sustainable Power Group (sPower) is an industry leading owner and operator of over 160 renewable energy projects. With new offices located in Spotsylvania County and Richmond, Virginia, our footprint and team continue to expand where energy resources are needed most. sPower portfolio consists of 13 gigawatts (GW) of development and operations assets across the United States and has generated nearly 4 billion kilowatt hours of carbon free electricity. For more information, visit www.spower.com