A key selling point of the proposed Hemings Solar Project is not etched in stone. 

EDF Renewables is proposing a 4.9-megawatt facility on an 84-acre parcel along Richmond Road near the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Power from that facility is supposed to flow to Northern Neck Electric Cooperative’s substation across the street. 

EDF representatives have repeatedly promoted the idea that 100% of this locally-generated energy will go to Richmond County homes and businesses.

Project developer Chris Gordon repeated these claims Thursday during the public hearing for the facility’s special exception permit.

He explained that all of the energy would go to Richmond County users, and as a result they would benefit from reduced exposure to volatility in coal and natural gas prices.

NNEC public relations representative Jay Garner, was the sole person to speak in support of the project during the public comment session. And during his remarks, he said the power would benefit users in Richmond County and the Northern Neck.

To be clear, there is nothing in the documentation for this project that requires any portion of the Hemings Solar energy to go to Richmond County users.

And Garner explained that “the power generated from Hemings will be primarily used for co-op members in Richmond County, but there is a possibility some renewable power could be available for use in other co-op service areas if the electrical demand is low for any given time in Richmond County.”

On a typical sunny day, Hemings Solar will produce about 5 megawatts of power to help meet the 10 megawatts electrical demand capacity of the Rt. 360 substation, he explained.

If electrical demand at the Rt. 360 substation is low for a few hours, then any excess power being produced by the Hemings site could be used to meet demand at the next closest substation, which is in Warsaw. If demand at the Warsaw substation also happens to be low, then the excess power could be sent to the next substation located at Lyells in Westmoreland County and so forth until the excess power is used,” he added. 

One opposing voice

The only person to speak in opposition of the solar project at the public hearing was Charles Sanford who owns property near the project. He said he was speaking for his neighbors as well.

He told the board this project is unfair to surrounding property owners who have been there for 50-plus years because they weren’t asked if they wanted a solar facility. 

He added that he was opposed to the facility from the start and remains opposed. “And there’s nothing in heaven that’s going to convince me that this facility isn’t going to bring problems,” he said.  

The board of supervisors  is scheduled to vote on Hemings Solar special exception permit at their monthly meeting in December.