The latest solar farm proposed in Louisa County would be by far the largest yet, changing the landscape on a longtime timber tract near Northeast Creek Reservoir.
Aura Power Developments LLC applied earlier this month for a conditional use permit from the county government to allow solar panels on the property. The company says the development could generate up to 244 megawatts of electricity. By comparison, the solar farm now under construction near Waldrop Church Road will produce a maximum of 88 megawatts.
Aura is a British solar developer working in partnership with Vogt GmbH, a German engineering contractor. The property where Aura hopes to install solar is owned by Charles and Eric Purcell, operating under the name Fisher Chewning LLC. Eric Purcell represents the Louisa district on the county board of supervisors.
In its application, Aura cited a number of factors driving the growth of solar farms in this part of Virginia, including the Clean Economy Act recently passed by the General Assembly. The bill requires that 30 percent or more of the state’s electricity come from clean energy by 2030.
Central Virginia is also a pretty good place to plant a solar crop.
“Virginia, and especially Louisa, is made even more attractive as an area to develop solar projects by the relatively high solar yield, and appealing topography and geology of the region,” according to Aura’s proposal.
The proposed solar farm would generate 300 to 600 jobs during construction and contribute as much as $341,600 annually to the county tax coffers. Aura also offered to give a set of solar panels to the Louisa County Resource Council.
The solar farm will not have any impact on the reservoir, Aura says. The Louisa County Water Authority treats water from the reservoir and pumps it to serve the town of Louisa and customers along Jefferson and Davis highways (Routes 33 and 22). Native grasses will be planted around the solar panels to minimize soil erosion.
If Aura’s permit is approved, construction could begin by 2022. Access points for trucks and construction workers would be on School Bus and CCC roads. The company says it will commit to clean up mud tracked onto public roads by trucks and to repair any road damage.
On Waldrop Church Road, the solar company was required to prepare and submit a construction management and traffic control plan to county officials detailing how road damage would be addressed. Aura will likely be expected to do the same.
“We have noticed a significant increase in semi-truck traffic,” said David Critics, who lives near the Waldrop Church Road project. “The wear and tear on the road is already noticeable. We are not against the solar farms, but want to ensure that the safety of residents is respected.”
Critics said that he has seen 18-wheeler trucks cross the road’s centerline or exceed the posted speed limit, but is uncertain if they were traveling to the solar site.
Dominion Energy acquired the Waldrop Church Road project from Virginia Solar in 2019. Samantha Moore, a Dominion spokesperson, said she is unaware of any specific issues involving trucks traveling to and from the project.
Public hearings before the Louisa County Planning Commission and Louisa County Board of Supervisors will be scheduled before any local permits are issued for the new solar farm. A separate 30-day public comment period is required as part of a review process by the state Department of Environmental Quality.