Finals Thoughts on SPower Solar Projects
For over a year the three sPower Special Use Permits (SUP) consumed much of Spotsylvania. Months before the SUPs reached the formal process, citizens spoke at Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings to raise concerns about the project. Initially, I believed the early public comments were intended to scope specific conditions to better protect the County. I still believe that those citizens that opposed the project highlighted some valid concerns that needed to be addressed.
On April 9th, the Board of Supervisors approved the 400 MW Site A SUP 5-2 (Supervisors Ross and Trampe). On April 11, the Board of Supervisors approved the 30 MW Site B SUP 6-1 (Supervisor Ross) and the 70 MW Site C SUP 5-2 (Supervisors Ross and Trampe).
The issue for those that vigorously opposed the project is that County staff and by extension the applicant actioned almost all of those suggestions with some sort of mitigation or SUP condition. Additionally, and this admittedly is difficult to quantify, sPower’s process because of so much citizen input, appeared to have more scrutiny and rigor than previous SUPs and re-zoning applications.
Ultimately, the project was approved with over 175 conditions. Although for most Spotsylvanians the project has faded, some citizens continue to maneuver to presumably get the results overturned. They have also reportedly taken aim at ousting those Supervisors that supported the project - which is a more traditional response to disagreements with elected officials. Unfortunately, these efforts have been aided by the Free Lance-Star which continued to provide those that opposed the project with a forum to stoke public discourse.
One thing that struck me about the project was the lack of Supervisor explanation for their April votes - both those that favored and opposed the project. Livingston Supervisor Benton went into some detail at a later meeting. Battlefield Supervisor Yakabouski explained his vote later on a local radio show. However, for such a high profile project, it’s interesting that the Supervisors did not feel it warranted an explanation at the time. This contributes to suspicion and makes it more difficult for the community to move on from such a controversial topic.
No one can say with absolutely certainty how the sPower project will work out, which is the same for every project. We can only hope for transparency in the process and SUP conditions that County staff can enforce to protect us. In the end, each applicant must be treated the same and we must learn to look to the future when we on occasion don’t get the outcome we desire. To do otherwise, creates disunity and conflict in the community, which is something all parties claimed to be advocating against.