The Greensville County Board of Supervisors recently voted to approve the hotly contested Fountain Creek solar project. The Board adopted Resolution #21-39, which approves the Special Use Permit (SUP) originally submitted on March 10 by Fountain Creek Solar, LLC. The vote was 3-1.
The Fountain Creek project was initially proposed in December of 2018, rejected, and then resubmitted in January of 2019. The project is an 80-megawatt (mw) photovoltaic solar energy generation facility located on 802 acres of land in southwestern Greensville County. Of the 802 acres of land, approximately 560 acres will be developed for use by the project. The project includes a generation tie (gen-tie) line that will relay the power generated by the site to an interconnection point east of the Brink Road substation along Pine Log Road.
Emil Avram, vice president of Business Development for Dominion Energy, spoke to the Board, saying Dominion is looking to acquire the Fountain Creek project early next year. Avram said the facility would be in operation by the end of 2023, prior to approval from the State Corporation Commission.
In July, the Greensville County Planning Commission determined that the proposed project adequately met the guidelines laid out in the County’s Comprehensive Plan. GCPC found that the proposal “sufficiently mitigates adverse impacts associated with the project.”
Clearway Energy, the owners of Fountain Creek Solar, has been vocal about the project’s alignment with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. Representatives from Clearway also say the project will have numerous immediate and lasting benefits to the County.
Clearway says the project will create approximately 100-175 construction jobs over a 12-month time period. The project will also create 1-3 permanent operational jobs, and will require additional contractors for operations and regular maintenance.
Over the last two years, at least 125 county residents have spoken out or submitted letters in opposition to the project. Some do not believe the project meets the standards set by the Comprehensive Plan. Concerns range from light and noise pollution generated by the construction of the project to environmental hazards and effects on native wildlife.
Clearway said the project would create no long-term negative effects on wildlife in the area. In a statement, Clearway said: “The project will create multiple wildlife corridors located in natural areas around wetlands and streams to allow for passage of wildlife through the facility, as specifically required by the County in conditions of the approval for the Project.”
Board member William Cain, the only Board member who voted “no” to approving the project, echoed the frustration expressed by some residents. He stated that the Fountain Creek project does not meet the expectations of the Comprehensive Plan because it is located too close – approximately 600 ft. – to the Meherrin Solar Project site at a point on Fountain Creek Road.
“I am speaking for the people who are not in this room tonight,” Cain said. “I could never vote to approve something that 125 people do not support.”
In response, Clearway stated that while the two parcels are located close to one another, the projects’ fence lines and developed use areas are located between one-quarter and one-half mile apart in this area. Clearway stated that these developments, while not perfectly in line with the Comprehensive Plan, were consistent with other single solar projects approved by the Board. A growing number of residents have been vocal about their support for the Fountain Creek project. This group includes a majority of landowners with property adjacent to the project.
Another vocal supporter of the project is Thelma Atkins-Riley, president of the Community Youth Center in Emporia. Riley said Clearway gave $5,000 to the CYC for repairs to its pool, roof and building, with another $15,000 on the way if the Fountain Creek project was approved.
Dan Hendrick, head of external affairs for Clearway’s eastern division, said the company is excited to continue a partnership with the CYC.
“Clearway is especially grateful for our partnership with the Community Youth Center, Inc., and its leader, Thelma Atkins-Riley,” Hendrick said. “The CYC has been helping underserved families in Greensville County for generations. We are looking forward to being active supporters of the CYC’s modernization efforts and look forward to cutting the ribbon on their renovated facilities in 2021.”