THE supposed benefits from the Spotsylvania solar farm project have been seriously misrepresented. It will actually cost taxpayers and utility customers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Let me address some of the major claims:
Private investors will pay for the project. The solar farm will be subsidized by federal tax credits, so we, the taxpayers, will be paying 30 percent of the cost.
SPower has lined up a number of large customers who will buy all of the solar power generated. To the contrary, those customers will continue to buy all of their power from the utility companies, when and as they need it; the solar farm will not affect their usage. There is not even a mechanism for these companies to agree to buy the power.
What the companies will be buying is green energy credits, a gimmick to reduce their taxes. So not only are sPowerâ€™s customers not part of the solution, taxpayers will be paying a bigger share of taxes as a result.
The solar farm will be connected to the power grid in order to move its power to waiting customers. No, there are no customers waiting for that power, and connecting to the grid is a mechanism to force the utility to buy all of the solar power produced, and at a high price.
The solar farm will not address an unmet need for power, and usage wonâ€™t change because of it. The utilityâ€™s power generation capacity is sized for needs at peak periods. No additional power is needed at the time solar panels provide it.
However, regulations require the utility to purchase all of the solar power if it is connected to the grid, even though they donâ€™t need it, and to pay more for it than it costs them to produce the same amount of power.
The utility needs to accommodate the solar output by either reducing its own output and operating less efficiently, or after paying a high price for it, dumping it elsewhere at a loss because nobody else needs extra power at that time either. All of these costs get passed on in higher prices to electricity consumers, which is us.
SPower will be a net financial contributor to the county. Not at all. In addition to the costs already mentioned, taxpayers will need to pay a bigger share of real estate taxes.
SPowerâ€™s offer of a voluntary contribution isnâ€™t contractually enforceable. We may need to pay half the cost of upgrading the municipal water supply. We may need to pay for energy storage if the cost of dealing with solar power becomes too high.
We will need to pay for expensive building modifications to make any use of the â€śfreeâ€ť solar panels being offered. We may be stuck with huge decommissioning costs if there is not an adequate bond. The list goes on.
The solar farm will provide clean energy. This is the kicker. The solar output wonâ€™t even be green energy. Utility emissions wonâ€™t be reduced in proportion to the solar output. In addition, deforestation is the second largest cause of atmospheric carbon. Permanently eliminating 3,500 acres of trees to put up solar panels will increase carbon dioxide by 100 million pounds per year.
The reality is that the project is a scheme to exploit poorly-planned regulations in order to siphon huge amounts of public money.
We taxpayers will become silent partners in this investment, and we will also be the victims of the collateral damage, such as higher utility costs and taxes, not to mention all of the risks that have been previously discussed.
Glenn Marcus is a retired engineer who lives in Spotsylvania.