Trey Lopez, Senior Development Manager of the Axton Solar project, presented information at a community meeting in the TAD Space ballroom on Church Street in Martinsville on Thursday.
Owned by Vesper Energy, this project involves 1,237 privately owned acres in Henry County and 1,423 acres in western Pittsylvania County. It will be a 200-megawatt facility with an expected 35-year lifespan, afterwards the land can be returned to agricultural use.
Lopez said the purpose of the meeting was to provide an update, answer questions and hear concerns from residents.
“You guys have to live here among the project, we understand there are other projects in the area that do set a precedent. It’s up to us to convey and communicate with each and every one of you the transparency of the project and how this project will be different from the other ones,” he said.
One of the slides shown in Lopez’s presentation gave details about how property taxes will be allocated from the Henry County General Budget, along with the revenue. A total of $666,025 was given for Year 1 of the project share of the budget allocation.
Also in his progress update, Lopez noted that several steps had been completed, with work on others ongoing. The list included:
Cultural Resources Study (complete)
Wetland Delineation (complete)
Typology & Hydrology Study (complete)
Biological Assessment (complete)
Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (complete)
Geotechnical Study (complete)
Pittsylvania County Special Use Permit (complete)
Henry County Special Use Permit (partially complete)
ALTA (American Land Title Association) Surveys (partially complete)
Lopez addressed concerns that a lot of timber will potentially be impacted by the project by explaining the steps currently in place to minimize the impact. He added that a minimum 20 feet of vegetation would be required.
“We already have a substantial buffer. Where there is no current vegetation, we will have to plant it,” he said, adding that with help from the chamber of commerce, bids will be solicited for landscape architects and fencing companies.
After his presentation, many in the audience voiced their concerns and/or wanted additional information about the project. Several residents asked Lopez the name of the entity who would be buying energy from Axton.
“I can’t answer that yet, we’re still in the process of negotiating the PPA (Power Purchase Agreement,” Lopez said.
Tim Wilson, of Axton, expressed concerns about setbacks from the roadway, and noted that he believed Pittsylvania County did a good job modifying their permits in this regard.
“Right now, the current ordinance is the setbacks for any public roadway is 150-feet from any residential property and will require a 100 ft. foliage around these project areas,” he said.
Wilson added that groundwater pollution is a concern for residents because most use well water. He requested that residents receive free water sample evaluations.
Other issues raised by residents ranged from voltage, project life and property values.