Virginia agency issues recommendations concerning two proposed solar projects

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on Oct. 1 submitted to the Virginia State Corporation Commission recommendations regarding two utility scale solar photovoltaic (PV) generation facilities proposed by Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion Energy Virginia).

As noted in the filing, the company has submitted an application to the commission for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to build and operate the approximately:

  • 142-MW (nominal alternating current (AC)) Colonial Trail West Solar Facility (CTW Solar), located in Surry County
  • 98-MW AC Spring Grove 1 Solar Facility (SG1 Solar), located in Surry County

Together, the facilities are referred to as the US-3 Solar Projects or the projects, the DEQ added.

CTW Solar would be located about 6.5 miles west of the town of Surry on State Route 10, and encompasses about 1,800 acres. The facility would use crystalline silicon solar electric panels and would be connected to the 230-kV Hopewell to Surry transmission line in Surry County, the DEQ added. Construction of the proposed power station is anticipated to begin in 1Q19, with commercial operations in 4Q20.

The DEQ also said that SG1 Solar would be located about 6.5 miles west of the town of Surry on State Route 10, and encompasses about 1,150 acres. The facility would also use crystalline silicon solar electric panels and would connect to the Hopewell to Surry line. Construction of the proposed power station is anticipated to begin in 1Q20, with commercial operations in 4Q20, the DEQ added.

Discussing environmental impacts and mitigation, the DEQ said that its Office of Wetlands and Stream Protection (OWSP) finds that the CTW Solar site contains 333 acres of palustrine forested (PFO) wetlands and 52,245 linear feet of streams. The SG1 Solar site contains 170 acres of PFO wetlands and 37,000 linear feet of streams. The DEQ added that its Piedmont Regional Office notes that the sites drain to Cypress Swamp and Grays Creek.

The DEQ-OWSP recommends, for instance, that structures should be sited to avoid wetlands to the extent practicable and should be sited outside of stream channels. The DEQ added that the DEQ-OWSP also recommends that prior to beginning project work, all wetlands and streams within the project corridor should be field delineated and verified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers using accepted methods and procedures.

Regarding natural heritage resources, the DEQ said that coordination with the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage did not identify natural heritage resources within the project areas. While the Lazy Oak Corner Conservation Sites, for instance, are within two miles of the projects, construction of the projects would not impact the conservation sites due to the distance from project sites, the DEQ noted.

Discussing wildlife resources, the DEQ said that a review of the Virginia Fish and Wildlife Information Service (VAFWIS) identified the Barking Treefrog as being observed, historically, within two miles of the CTW Solar site, as well as the Barking Treefrog and Atlantic sturgeon within two miles of the SG Solar site. The SG Solar Project would not affect Atlantic Sturgeon as that species is confined to the James River located to the north of the project. The DEQ added that Dominion will coordinate with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) as needed regarding the management and protection of the Barking Treefrog as it relates to the projects.

Among other things, the DEQ also noted that a review of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ (DHR) online database, as well as a Phase I cultural and historic resources assessments and survey has been completed for the projects. The results of those studies did not reveal any known or unknown historic resources within or in the vicinity of the project, the DEQ said, adding that Dominion will continue to work with DHR and DEQ, as needed, to ensure that the projects will not impact state cultural resources.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3058 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.