A former titanium mine site in Piney River is targeted to become Amherst County’s third solar generation facility.
Piney River Solar LLC plans to seek zoning approval from the county to operate a 50-megawatt solar panel farm on private land situated between Patrick Henry Highway and Rose Mill Road. The former titanium mine property with a history of heavy industrial pollution is ideal for repurposing to a site for domestically produced renewable energy, according to a description of the project made available to the public during an open house meeting in Amherst on Jan. 24.
The project close to the Nelson County border on Virginia 151 is expected to provide enough power to serve about 13,500 homes and will generate more than $8 million in tax revenue for Amherst County over a 40-year projected lifespan, a handout from the solar company states. “It will also provide 200 well-paying construction jobs over the 6-9 months of construction while providing a boost to local hospitality businesses,” the handout reads.
People are also reading…
Piney River Solar LLC is part of Energix, a company with locations in Arlington and Roanoke.
Dominika Sink, director of development for Energix, said the company has nine solar projects operational in Virginia and six are under construction with the largest at 118 megawatts. She said solar energy is a good way to revitalize a former industrial property with limited options for reuse.
“It’s a really well-sited project,” Sink said in an interview during the open house. “It’s got a lot of natural vegetation to cover it. It’s got a lot of topography around it to hide it really well.”
Sink said the project ties into Virginia’s clean economy plan that aims for the most responsible and affordable ways to generate power.
“It doesn’t pollute; it is the cheapest energy source,” Sink said. “The technology we use is American-made.”
The project will only use American-made solar panels that guarantee a quality product with an active recycling plan, according to Piney River Solar LLC.
“We’re working closely with [Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality] to make sure that is done in the right way and is safe and responsible,” Sink said of reusing the property.
The location also is beneficial for feeding into existing electrical providers, she said.
“It’s in a fairly remote location where there are few residences, few neighbors, and they are far away from the project,” Sink said. “After construction there’s very little the project requires. The good thing about it is we don’t generate traffic or any burden on the county infrastructure because it’s temporary.”
While adhering to strict oversight of federal and state environmental agencies, the Piney River site will be transformed into an environmentally clean property that encourages biodiversity and will have vegetative buffering to fully screen the panels from roads, houses and other amenities, according to the company.
“Piney River Solar LLC is committed to being a long-term partner of Amherst County and is excited to contribute in a meaningful way to the community,” the company said in its project description.
Tyler Creasy, Amherst County’s acting co-director of community development, said the Piney River solar farm project is the largest proposed in the county to date. Two others, which received county officials’ zoning approval in 2021 and last year, were each at five megawatts.
The company is expected to file an application in the coming months that will require public hearings through the Amherst County Planning Commission and the Amherst County Board of Supervisors, he said.
Creasy said a solar farm is a viable reuse of the property since it doesn’t require groundwater, which would be an issue for other forms of potential development uses.
“From what I’ve gathered, it’s all about two things: the topography of the land and interconnecting into the existing electrical grid,” Creasy said of selecting sites for solar operations. “You’ve got to have a way to send that power somewhere else. It’s all about finding those layouts, is what I’ve been told.”