This article is in 4 parts.
- Part #1: updates and summary of the industrial scale Riverstone Solar project in Buckingham, southeast of Scottsville.
- Part #2 is the information about the upcoming public meeting on Tuesday June 7, 6 pm at the Buckingham VFW.
- Part #3 is a long list of very concerning unanswered questions we all should be asking. Please show up – your voice matters! If you can’t make it in person, please give your comments, per instructions.
- Part #4 has links to articles about this project, and industrial scale solar that are helpful background.
Thanks to Jennis Pickens, Bradley Pickens, Allison Purcell and Scott Flood, for this article and many concerned friends for keeping a watchful eye on this project.
Photo above: Spotsylvania industrial scale solar project
Part #1 Updates on Apex’s Riverstone Solar Project
Buckingham County Board of Supervisors voted 4-3 to grant a special use permit for a utility-scale solar power plant to remove nearly 1,800 acres of trees and vegetation from the proposed 2,000 acres site. This has been forested land zoned for A-1 (agricultural) and RA (rural area) use for multiple generations.
Much to the dismay of the residents surrounding the project and in the community, there is no solar ordinance in place to protect the interests of the residents and landowners of Buckingham County. Apex (the developer) made numerous promises from planting vegetative buffers and limiting noise from pile driving that could be virtually unenforceable once the project has started. There is a misconception about how the power generated by this project will benefit residents of Buckingham, this area is serviced by CVEC and the power produced will go into the Appalachian Power grid. There are no Appalachian Power customers in the County.
Of immense concern is the environmental disaster that is inevitable when trees are removed, the vegetation is hit with chemicals, and the natural undulations of the earth must be leveled to install solar arrays that are nearly the length of football fields. The hundreds of thousands of solar panels are impervious, compounding storm-water runoff. The affected streams and creeks surrounding the project feed directly into the James River which is roughly a quarter mile from the boundaries of the proposed industrial solar power plant.
- Approximately 1/4 mile from James River (all sediment, erosion and runoff directly flow to the river)
- Section of the James has “Scenic River Designation”
- Project encompasses nearly 2,000 acres of timberland (3 square miles)
- Steep terrain with 250 feet of elevation change from the highest point of the project to the James River
- Located in Northern Buckingham County
- Land currently zoned agricultural
- Adjacent properties are zoned agricultural and residential
- Developer estimating 1 1/2 years of construction (noise, water, and air pollution; burden on community with thousands of trips on road by tractor trailers and dump trucks; hundreds of out-of-state workers)
- Noise from months of mass grading, months of pile driving, etc…
- Air pollution from dust of hundreds of acres of bare earth and burning of stumps and debris
- Water pollution from possible contamination of shallow wells, depletion of water table, sediment, erosion and stormwater to creeks, streams and the James River
- Destruction of terrestrial and aquatic habitats
- 149.5 MW (If project was over 150 MW, it would be subject to additional scrutiny and regulations)
- No electricity from the project will go to homes in Buckingham County
Part #2 Public Meeting
“Public comments” regarding the Riverstone LLC solar facility can be made until June 20th. The public meeting is an opportunity to learn more about the project and the permitting process. Comments can made at the meeting or until the June 20 deadline.
Background: The developer, Apex Clean Energy LLC, is holding a public meeting for the proposed utility-scale solar facility, Riverstone Solar LLC. The public meeting is required by State law.
Date: Tuesday, June 7, 2022
Time: 6pm to 8pm
Where: Buckingham County VFW, 14405 W James Anderson Hwy, Buckingham, VA 23921
The following is from the Riverstone website: https://www.riverstonesolar.com/pbr_process
Riverstone Solar, LLC seeks to (i) acquaint the public with the technical aspects of the proposed project and how the standards and requirements of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Small Renewable Energy Projects (Solar) Permit by Rule (PBR) regulations will be met, (ii) identify issues of concern, (iii) facilitate communication, and (iv) establish a dialogue with persons who may be affected by the project.
A 30-day comment period, in accordance with 9VAC15-60-90 C, will be held commencing May 21, 2022, through June 20, 2022. Any interested parties may contact the applicant to ask questions or provide comments as follows:
Riverstone Solar, LLC
ATTN: Jimmy Merrick
120 Garrett Street, Suite 700
Charlottesville, VA 22902
A public meeting will be held in accordance with 9VAC15-60-90 D on June 7 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the Buckingham County VFW, located at 14405 W James Anderson Hwy, Buckingham, VA 23921
Physical copies of the documentation to be submitted to the DEQ in support of the Permit by Rule application will be available for inspection at the Buckingham County Administration Building, located at 13360 W James Anderson Hwy, Buckingham VA 23921 between the hours of 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM Monday through Friday.
The full application will also be accessible to the public online at www.riverstonesolar.com/pbr_application_materials. The site will also provide community members opportunities to learn more about solar energy and the Riverstone Solar project, and to ask questions about the application. Visitors will be able to submit comments and/or questions at www.riverstonesolar.com/public_comment_portal.
Please follow the below links to access our PBR application materials page, our public meeting event page, and one of the ways you can submit a public comment.
You can also find these pages by hovering over the ‘PBR Process’ tab in the above navigation menu.
Renewable Permitting Process Flow Chart – click here.
Part #3 Questions needing to be asked
There are lots of unanswered questions about the industrial solar project. The developer needs to go on record and be held accountable for the harms they would inflict. Questions are encouraged. Below are some topics to consider. I am sure there are many more topics and questions. This is a brief list.
- The DEQ has determined that current regulations are inadequate to protect the environment. Will Riverstone be designed to the new regulations that consider the solar panels to be impervious structures? or will it be designed to the inadequate standard?
- What is being done to prevent soil eroding into streams and bodies of water?
- What is being done to prevent soil eroding onto adjacent land?
- What is the process (and who pays) for repairing adjacent properties damaged by runoff?
- Are you going to use the new HB206 standard to develop a mitigation plan for wildlife, natural resources and historic resources? Why not?
- What is the guarantee that cleared areas of the buffer will be replanted and maintained?
- What Best Management Practices are being used to protect the threatened freshwater mussels known to be in the area?
- How in depth were the environmental studies?
- How in depth were the wildlife studies?
- What is being done to protect the water quality?
- What will be done to protect the neighbor’s shallow wells?
- What will be done to protect the air quality?
- How will dust created during construction be controlled?
- How will the smoke from burning of stumps, limbs, brush and other debris be controlled?
- How far from the property line will the burning occur?
- How large will the burn piles be?
- How frequently will burns occur and how much will be burned at once?
- Who will monitor noise levels?
- Who do we contact regarding noise problems?
- Construction entrances?Road safety?
- Mud on streets from construction?
- Where will the 450 plus construction workers stay?
- Will the construction workers private vehicles be using Georgia Creek Road, Hummingbird Lane, Quail Run Lane or Paynes Pond Road?
- Are you still estimating “2700 truck trips” by dump trucks and tractor trailers?
- Will the dump trucks and tractor trailers be on the roads with the school buses and during peak commuting hours?
- Has VDOT determined if the roads are able to withstand the punishment of the construction vehicles?
- Will broken or damaged solar panels be stored on the site? If so will they be exposed to rainwater?
- Will broken or damaged solar panels be buried on site?
- What training will the Buckingham Emergency Services receive?
- Does Emergency Services have SCBA equipment that is necessary to respond to HAZMAT fires?
- Will water be stored on site for use by the fire department?
Part #4 Articles to Inform you
Virginia Conservation Network
Virginia Mercury – Sarah Vogelsong article
Citizens for Responsible Solar website
VCU Study – Utility-Scale Solar in Virginia
Piedmont Environmental Council – Utility-Scale Solar in Spotsylvania (photos)
Report on solar’s spread is first of its kind in Virginia