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Spotsylvania supervisors approve two other solar farm sections

Free Lance-Star

April 12-- Apr. 12--In a somewhat anti-climactic finale, the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved special-use permits for two other tracts of the massive solar facility in the western part of the county.

For more than a year, the proposal to build one of the country's largest industrial solar facilities has dominated county meetings, which have consistently been packed with supporters and opponents.

With the supervisors approving the largest section of the 500-megawatt solar facility on Tuesday, the crowd was much lighter Thursday.

Following a brief overview of the two other sections of the project and changes to several special-use permit conditions, the supervisors approved the proposals.

Supervisor David Ross was the lone no vote on all three permits. Chairman Paul Trampe voted no on the two larger sections.

Utah-based Sustainable Power Group applied for the special-use permits in late 2017.

The company, also known as sPower, plans to build the massive, $615 million facility on more than 6,300-acres in the Wilderness area, where 1.8 million solar panels will be installed on the three tracts.

The solar farm, the largest such proposal in the nation, would send energy into the current grid. The company already has agreements to sell the energy to Apple, Microsoft and the University of Richmond.

Residents around the proposed site said the project is too big, includes too many unknown health and environmental risks and is a financial gamble for the county and residents, among other issues.

The company in turn countered with experts who deemed the project safe and a good one for the county.

The county's Planning Commission recommended that supervisors deny the two larger and approve the smallest one. The county's Planning Department recommended the supervisors approve all three permits, but with the many strict conditions.

Opponents have criticized supervisors who approved the project, suggesting they caved in to sPower.

Charlie Payne, a local attorney representing the company, countered the opponents, saying the project, with more than 170 conditions, is likely the most heavily regulated solar project in the country.

He said the conditions protect Fawn Lake residents.

"They should thank the Board," he said in a text message.

The company expects to have the facility operating within two years.

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