Friends and neighbors:
This is a Special Edition of The Maysville Voice relating to facts about the Proposed Riverstone Solar Project Special Use Permit.
We will take up the proposed 149.5 mega watt solar facility as an introduction from staff for a Special Use Permit and Siting Agreement on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022 during a joint hearing with the Planning Commission on this matter at 6 PM in the Peter Francisco Auditorium in the County Administration Complex.
This newsletter will serve as a recap and update of the status of the Riverstone application for a special use permit (SUP) in Buckingham County.
Please read the facts below and visit links below for the proposed Siting Agreement, Erosion and Sediment Control Factsheet, Special Use Permit Conditions, and more.
WHAT IS IT?
Riverstone is applying to establish a utility scale solar farm in Buckingham County. The size of the solar farm is 149.5 MW. The footprint of the entire project is limited to 1,765 acres.
WHO IS INVOLVED?
Riverstone Solar, LLC (Riverstone) is a company associated with Apex. Apex is the project developer.
Weyerhaeuser is a corporation and the land owner on which the project will be built.
Weyerhaeuser has as part of its business timberlands and wood products.
No individual property owners are involved in the footprint of the project. There are, of course, adjoining landowners who are individuals.
Buckingham County is involved because Apex/Riverstone is seeking a special use permit from the County to build this project. The County Zoning Ordinance requires a special use permit for this use.
IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM THE PREVIOUS SUP THAT WAS APPROVED?
This is a new application totally separate from the earlier SUP relating to Apex/Riverstone approved by the Board of Supervisors.
This project is for a larger area (35 acres) that is involved only for parking and storage. The decision on this SUP does not change the County’s approval of the earlier Apex/Riverstone SUP.
WHAT WILL BE THE COUNTY’S ROLE IN THE PROJECT?
If the project is approved, there are extensive conditions in the special use permit.
The County has responsibility for making sure there is compliance with the conditions and permits. This will be accomplished by review, monitoring and enforcement.
The County has also negotiated a siting agreement with the applicant that will relate to this project. The siting also has requirements and conditions independent of the SUP conditions.
The County will also negotiate a decommissioning agreement with the applicant that controls the closure of the project.
If the project is approved, the County will be involved in the application and approval of the sediment – erosion control permit. The County will be engaging professional services to help with this. That will be at no expense to the County.
The County will have to issue a building permit for this project and will have to approve the construction as it progresses. Additional inspectors will be hired, again at no expense to the County.
The County will hire professionals to make sure that the permit relating to erosion and sediment control is implemented correctly; that there is compliance and appropriate response to any issue that may result. This includes stop orders. Again, these experts will be hired by the County at no expense to the County.
WHY IS THIS PROJECT IN THIS AREA OF THE COUNTY?
Weyerhaeuser is a corporation that manages and timbers land. It owns the property where this project will be constructed. Commercial solar projects, such as the one proposed by Apex/Riverstone, require transmission lines and need to locate in proximity to those transmission lines. There are two major transmission lines in Buckingham. Generally, one runs from the Scottsville area to the power station at Bear Garden. The other runs from Bear Garden south, crossing US Route 60 near the Cumberland County line. The proximity to the transmission is why this project is being constructed in this area of the County.
ARE SOLAR PROJECTS SAFE?
Solar projects of this size exist throughout the State of Virginia, throughout the United States, and throughout the world.
Solar is recognized as one of the safest forms of producing energy. There are no air emissions and are no medical/health hazards associated with the production of electricity from solar.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR THE COUNTY?
The county will receive significant financial benefits from this project. Those benefits will come to the county in multiple ways.
First, Buckingham County will receive payments authorized by the State of Virginia for each megawatt of capacity of this site. This payment will increase every 5 years as authorized by law. In about 2 years, if this project goes on line, the payments will be $1450 per megawatt. That means each year Buckingham County will receive more than $200,000 per annum from the solar revenue share. That amount will increase in future years. $200,000 is approximately a penny and a half on real estate tax.
Second, Buckingham County will receive additional real estate taxes from the increased value of the land involved in this project. It is expected that the value of the land involved inside the fence on this project will be taxed at a value of $10,000-$12,000 per acre. The current assessment of this land is substantially less than that. So the project will generate additional tax revenue.
Third, the siting agreement provides for additional payments to Buckingham County. If approved, Apex/Riverstone, will pay to Buckingham County $1,750,000, $250,000 for a building permit, and $400,000 for the county to use for evaluating, monitoring, inspecting, and compliance assurance concerns relating to this project.
In total, the expected financial benefit to Buckingham County is expected to exceed $14 million over the life of the project.
This will help stabilize and reduce the pressure on the need to increase real estate and personal property taxes.
WHAT DEMANDS WILL THIS PROJECT MAKE ON THE SERVICES OFFERED BY BUCKINGHAM COUNTY?
This project will not increase the demand for services from Buckingham County.
The demands on law enforcement will not be significantly increased.
The demands on emergency services will not be increased significantly.
The developer will be working with EMS and the fire department to make sure if a response is needed it will be appropriate.
No new infrastructure will be required from the County.
WHAT ABOUT THE IMPACT ON THE PROPERTY VALUES ADJOINING OR NEAR THE PROJECT?
Studies that have been conducted show that there is no significant decrease in property values in the counties where these projects are built.
WILL YOU BE ABLE TO SEE THIS PROJECT AFTER IT IS CONSTRUCTED?
After the project is constructed and the buffering has grown you will not be able to see the solar panels or the substation of this project.
If the project is approved, the conditions of the special use permit require a buffering around the project so that the visibility of the panels etc. will be obscured.
WILL THE TREES BE CUT DURING THIS PROJECT?
Weyerhaeuser is a corporation in the timber business. The trees will be timbered on this land regardless of whether this project is built or not. If the project is built, there will be a natural built required to be built around the project so that the visibility of the solar panels etc. are obscured.
WILL THE ENTIRE PROPERTY BE GRADED?
No. Only certain areas.
WHAT ABOUT EROSION AND WATER RUNOFF DURING THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE PROJECT?
This project may seem large, but the County is requiring that it be developed built in phases. The project, in terms of the erosion and sediment control issue, will involve four phases. Certain things need to happen with each phase before the next phase can be begin. Thus, it a becomes a more manageable project.
Also, it is helpful to understand how the permitting process works to answer this question: At this point, the County only has preliminary drawings dealing with erosion and sediment control and runoff. With the current status of the application, neither DEQ or other state agencies will comment specifically on the requirements of this project. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA is not involved in this project and will not be if the SUP is approved and the project moves forward.
DEQ will only become involved if the project goes forward, after approval.
The County will be actively involved in this. The County, in the siting agreement, is having the applicant pay Buckingham County for costs that may be incurred by the County to review the application for the settlement and erosion control permit so that the county will be able to have input on that permit. The county will be
able to hire its own engineers and consultants to do this. It will not be relying on the engineers of the applicant.
The County, in the siting agreement, is having the applicant pay Buckingham County for the costs that may be incurred by the County to monitor the project as it is constructed. If there are violations of the project the County has the ability and the proper circumstances to issue stop orders until the problems are solved. DEQ also has enforcement authority with this project.
WHAT ABOUT TRAFFIC DURING CONSTRUCTION?
Buckingham County recognizes that there will be increased traffic during construction.
The County is addressing this by requiring a traffic management plan. It will also work with VDOT to ensure proper speed limits and construction zone signs.
Law enforcement, the Sheriff’s Department and the Virginia State police, will participate in the enforcement of these restrictions.
ARE THE ROADS ABLE TO HANDLE THIS TYPE OF TRAFFIC?
The roads that serve this project currently have no restrictions placed on them by the Virginia Department of Transportation. That suggested that the roads are able to handle the traffic. Any concerns will be addressed in the traffic management plan to ensure the safety of these roads.
WHERE WILL ALL THE WORKERS STAY?
Workers will stay in various accommodations around the area, including hotels and motels in Buckingham County and other jurisdictions.
The County will not allow camping or trailers, etc. on the property being developed. Camping facilities and mobile home parks in Buckingham County must be approved by the County before they can operate.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE SOLAR FARM IS NO LONGER OPERATING?
When the solar farm is no longer operating, it will be decommissioned and disassembled. The County will have a decommissioning agreement to insure that happens. The cost of decommissioning will be assured by a bond with surety. Salvage value will not be included in the estimated cost of decommissioning. The cost is reviewed and revised periodically, every five (5) years, and the cost and bond and surety are adjusted accordingly.
ARE THERE OTHER THINGS THAT ARE BEING DONE TO MAKE SURE?
The County has added substantial conditions to the SUP to make sure this project is appropriate.
Public Comments may be made in person or by using the following methods:
- In person Public Comments must sign up to speak. Sign up times are 5:30 p.m. to 5:55 p.m.
- Written comments may be mailed to the Board of Supervisors at PO Box 252 Buckingham, VA 23921. Please limit word count to 500 words.
- Emailed comments may be sent to email@example.com. Please limit word count to 500 words.
- Telephone voicemail comments may be left to be played to the board by calling 434‐969‐5039
- To appear virtually to the Board of Supervisors for comments please email
firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive notice with the link and/or telephone number necessary to connect virtually during the meeting.
Please note: Please state your name, district, address, and which hearing you are commenting on. The three (3) minute rule will apply to public comments. All correspondence must be received only by the methods above, and are due by 12:00 PM the day of the meeting.
Riverstone Solar Farm Update and Fact Sheet
Riverstone Solar Proposed Special Use Permit Conditions
Riverstone Solar Siting Agreement
Riverstone Solar ES and SWM Summary
Communication Methods for the Public Hearing