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Huge solar energy project planned for Pulaski County



Representatives from Hecate Energy Pulaski LLC made presentations Monday night both at Pulaski County High School and online via Zoom.

If approved by the county board of supervisors, this solar energy project will cover 2,697 acres of land within Pulaski County. The proposed solar power generating facilities are divided into three named sections, those being Hazel Hollow, Morgan’s Cut and Wurno.

The Hazel Hollow solar array is the largest and is comprised of three sections covering 1,593 acres with the capacity to produce 150 megawatts of electricity.

The Morgan’s Cut section of the solar farm comprises 847.5 acres of land and will be capable of producing 100 megawatts of power. This section of the solar facility extends from the west side of Route 100, beginning at the airport and extending just past Highland Road.

The Wurno section of this project is not in the Wurno area near Pulaski, but instead wraps around the western and northern borders of New River Community College extending from Route 11 to across Route 100. The Wurno solar array will have the capacity to produce 30 megawatts of electricity.

Chris Tuck, former chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, gave the presentation at the high school, while Wytheville native Jay Poole made an online presentation via Zoom.

As both men made clear, the total project investment to build this massive solar farm is projected to be $400 million.

It is not uncommon for a company to ask the locality where it plans to relocate for tax breaks or a monetary investment of some type. However, both Tuck and Poole emphasized that Pulaski County will not be required to invest any money at all in this solar power project and that annual tax revenue from this solar facility is estimated at $420,000. At that rate, the county would garner $13.7 million in tax revenues over the expected 35-year duration of the solar farm.

Hecate does not plan to buy the land, but rather intends to lease the land for a period of 30 to 35 years. Poole was quick to emphasize that all of these lands will be leased from willing participants and that no property will be seized via Eminent Domain. According to the spokesmen, Hecate Energy has never used eminent domain to seize property in any of its dozens of projects throughout the country.

When completed, it was stated that this solar farm will produce enough energy to power 100,000 homes. Poole mentioned how this energy could be used to power businesses as well.

Poole stressed how many high-tech companies that could potentially locate in Pulaski County have stipulations in their charters requiring that a significant portion of the power to run their enterprises must come from renewable energy. Since solar energy is considered to be renewable, as is the hydroelectric power generated from the Claytor Lake dam, this could be considered a draw for attracting new business.

If all goes according to plan, Hecate Energy LLC Pulaski will begin construction of this solar energy farm in August/September 2021. The estimation is that completing all three phases of the project will take 10 months to a year.

It is estimate that 130 jobs will be created during the primary construction phase of the project.

It was stressed that this solar power project will not pollute the land where it will be located and that land owners will be able to again farm the land after the project is completed.

“Once the project’s life is completed … the community can be 100% assured that Hecate will be responsible for deconstructing and removing the panels once the facility is decommissioned,” said Poole. “Hecate’s contract requires it, as does Virginia state law. County residents need not be concerned that these panels will end up in a county landfill. The dismantled solar panels will be hauled off and recycled by Hecate.”

Poole went on to say that part of the responsibility of his company to the community consists of minimizing the visual impact of the facility to the facility’s neighbors and the community at large. To this end, the solar arrays would be partially obscured by the planting of native trees and fences placed along the edges of the facility. There is also a county regulation that requires a 50-foot setback on bordering property and roads.

These solar arrays consist of silicone solar panels mounted on galvanized steel trackers. Rows of trackers oriented in a north south direction will rotate the panels in an east/west direction to follow the sun’s daily path. These arrays rise a maximum of 10 feet above the ground in the course of their rotation.

Poole stated that the technology used in making these solar panels is decades old and therefore well established. The solar panels in this project are the same type seen in residential rooftop systems, businesses and on the campus of New River Community College.

“The predominant material in silicon solar panel is very much like the windshield on your car,” said Poole. “There are layers of silicon and plastic, which are encapsulated by glass to prevent shattering … like maybe during a hailstorm for example.”

He went on to explain how a major concern regarding the safety of solar arrays, namely the electromagnetic fields (EMF) that they produce, were essentially unfounded.

“The average EMF exposure to a human, while a microwave oven is operating, is 10 times greater than the exposure to a human standing outside the fence of an energy generation facility,” said Poole. “We don’t think twice about putting something in the microwave. In fact, the exposure to EMF from someone standing on the fence perimeter of a solar facility is so low, it’s even difficult to measure. Solar panels are safe.”

Public hearings regarding this project will be held at the January meetings of the Pulaski County Planning Commission as well as the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors. Landowners living adjacent to the project can call the Planning Office at (540) 980-7877.



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