Planners approve another solar farm

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of another solar energy facility during its Tuesday meeting.

Stratford Solar Center LLC submitted a conditional use permit request to establish a solar energy facility on 154 acres stretched across three parcels on White Marsh Road. All three parcels are adjacent to one another.

The parcels are currently vacant cropland owned by William and Barbara Hunter. The Hunters are leasing the property to the applicants for use.

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“I am for it, and we’ve been working with these guys for two and a half years,” William Hunter said. “I think it will be good for the community, and it’s better than 1,000 houses. I hope everyone will support it.”

Kyle West, senior vice president of development for Coronal Energy, spoke on behalf of the applicant.

“We are an end to end solar company, and that means that we originate, develop, construct, own and operate utility-scale solar farms around the country,” West said.

Coronal Energy currently has facilities in Virginia that total 30 megawatts of production, and the new facility in Suffolk will provide roughly 15 megawatts.

The applicants previously submitted a request last year, and it had included a fourth parcel. They withdrew that application, because the fourth parcel was designated for residential use in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

The commission members were happy with the application but had questions regarding the effect of the construction on traffic and the wetlands in the area.

Wetlands exist on the site, but the possible impacts are currently unclear.

“We will have more information when the time comes and when we look at site plans,” said Planning and Community Development Principal Planner Kevin Wyne.

The site, once up and running, won’t generate any traffic, but it may impact traffic while construction goes on. According to traffic engineering, they are aware of the impacts and they have given the applicants guidelines to help minimize that impact.

Previously, the Planning Commission and City Council have approved two applications for other solar energy facilities — Tradewind Energy and Juwi Inc.

It has been roughly a year since they were approved, but neither company has submitted site plans. According to Planning and Community Development, they have two years until they are required to submit plans.