Thursday, February 2, 2023

JCC Planners approve reworked proposal for Norge solar farm

Courtesy of SunPower
SunPower Devco, LLC., a California-based solar energy company, plans to request a special use permit from James City County for a solar farm up to 20 megawatts in Norge. (Courtesy SunPower)

James City County planners have given a preliminary stamp of approval for a proposed solar farm in Norge.

The county’s Planning Commission voted Wednesday to approve the proposal, and recommend it to the Board of Supervisors.

SunPower Devco LLC, a California-based solar energy company, has proposed constructing and operating a 20-megawatt solar farm on a 223-acre farm site behind the Norvalia subdivision on Richmond Road in Norge.

The farm would be the first large-scale solar farm in the county, generating enough electricity to power roughly 4,000 homes according to meeting documents.

“I think this a good use of the land,” said Planner Danny Schmidt. “I welcome this coming to James City County.”

The Planning Commission voted to pass two motions Wednesday— one to state the proposal is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan, and another to approve and recommend the proposal to the county board for a final determination.

County staff and officials have been considering similar versions of the proposal from SunPower for more than a year. During that time, SunPower has applied for and been granted multiple deferrals from county officials in order to iron out details of the project.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Planning Commission voted five to one in support of the reworked proposal, which made concessions to residents of neighboring properties.

The last deferral for application happened on Oct. 10. Before that meeting, Norvalia residents expressed concerns about high volumes of construction traffic through their neighborhood.  The board voted 4-0 to send the proposal back to the county’s Planning Commission for a review.

“We’ve made a big effort here— and SunPower does this at projects around the country— to engage with the local community,” said Senior Manager of Utility Origination at SunPower Peter Toomey Wednesday. “We’re going to be here for 35 years. We want to do the right thing and get off on the right foot.”

A map of the site for the proposed solar farm, and the access point via Old Church Road. (Courtesy James City County)
A map of the site for the proposed solar farm, and the access point via Old Church Road. (Courtesy James City County)

SunPower had originally proposed using the streets of the adjacent Norvalia subdivision to access the property. Norvalia residents were concerned the construction trucks entering and leaving the solar farm site would clog up their low-traffic neighborhood and possibly damage properties.

SunPower addressed those concerns by opening access to the property through Old Church Street, which is expected to impact fewer residences. Traffic will also be reduced by securing offsite parking for the 60 to 80 construction workers that will work on the project.

Prior concerns also focused on property values, glare from the solar panels and the view from residents’ properties. SunPower is planning to plant trees to solve these issues.

“I applaud the developer for the measures that have been taken since then as far as coming up with the access road, providing offsite parking for employees and using the shuttle bus to get them to the site,” said Planning Commission Chairman Richard Krapf. “I also will enthusiastically support this application.”

WYDaily archives were used in this story.

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