The Power of Green

Here is my Latest.

Green can be the color of energy, greed or sometimes both.

My home county finally made national news because we are going green! Well, sort of. Our Board of Supervisors, in historic Spotsylvania County Virginia, just voted to allow a big Utah based company, sPower, to build the largest solar farm on the east coast and one of the largest solar farms in the country. It will be the largest solar farm, by far, to ever be built near residential areas. Sounds wonderful, right? Now for the rest of the story.

Back in 2016 the company, sPower, was eyeing over 6,000 acres of forested land in our county to build an enormous solar farm (almost 2 million solar panels). This single project would comprise over 2% of the county’s total land mass. They carefully chose a location that was conveniently located next to an existing Dominion Energy sub-station, easy to tap into, thus increasing the profit for sPower’s owners. So goodbye oxygen producing green trees.

I should mention at this point that sPower moved forward with the unapproved project, full speed ahead, including the announcement that they already had contracts to sell this new energy to other big corporations like Microsoft and Apple (our county’s residents will receive none of this green energy by the way). The unapproved part did not seem to bother the company in the least. I guess they knew something the rest of us didn’t.

Area residents erupted in protest against the project but were met with accusations that they were paid hacks of the fossil fuel industry. Not very neighborly of the company. sPower attracted its own supporters, many from out of the area, with free food and green shirts, to attend public hearings. And yes, manipulative polls, mass mailings and robo-calls bombarded the region. What a budget sPower must have.

The local newspaper’s editorial board weighed in and opposed this specific project as being the wrong fit for that part of the county. The county’s Planning Commission recommended approval of a small portion of the project, including safety concessions from the company, and considered approving other portions of the project after the actual impacts could be appropriately assessed. Hmm, that sounded reasonable.

So, the Board went through the motions of looking at “research” and “data” from the company’s “paid experts.” In the end, the Board voted for sPower’s interests and even removed recommended concessions from its own Planning Commission. The local newspaper weighed in once again, writing that it was bad precedent for the Board to disregard their own constituents, their own comprehensive plan and their own Planning Commission.

Will this project be a boon for the county or a disaster for its residents? No one really knows at this point, but there are some early winners and losers. The early winners are big corporations, green or otherwise. The early losers are Spotsylvania residents, government transparency, and oxygen producing trees. And our Board of Supervisors? Who knows what they got out of the deal, but this is not the way to go green.