Clarke County solar farm plan approved

The solar farm will generate 20 megawatts of power for electric providers to buy

CLARKE COUNTY, Va. - On Tuesday, the Clarke County board of supervisors approved a permit for a massive solar project with an even bigger budget. 
Nashville-based Hecate Energy LLC. is building a $40 million solar farm in a field in White Post, which will produce 20 megawatts of power for electric providers to buy.
Brandon Stidham, Clarke County's planning director, said the solar farm is a perfect way to use the empty land. 
"This is the type of clean, environmentally friendly, low-impact business that Clarke County is looking for and that we were seeking to attract when we created the ordinance for solar farms in 2010," Stidham said. 
This will be the first solar farm in Clarke County and Old Dominion Electric has already bought the first 10 megawatts of power.
While green energy is good for commercial use, Stidham said the solar farm's focus, from Clarke County's perspective, is on rural areas.
"We want to have the opportunity for economic development in rural areas and this is the type rural of business that fits in to our agricultural and land preservation goals," Stidham said. 
Old Dominion Electric is the parent company of Rappahannock Electric, which provides power to Clarke County and many other parts of the Shenandoah Valley.
During a phone interview with WHAG, officials at Hecate said things like new power lines and transformers will need to be installed in order to integrate solar power into Rappahannock's system, which will in turn make the entire system more efficient.
The Rappahannock Electric customers will benefit from some of the solar power generated by the solar farm and residents are excited for the new energy source.
"I think it's fantastic. I think any new business in Berryville and Clarke County is a good thing," said Berryville resident, Jean Wilson.
Wilson works at The Tea Cart in Berryville, and like many restaurants, delicious treats bake in one of several ovens and the lights are on during work hours, which means high energy bills. 
While it's not clear how much money will be saved by going solar, Wilson said money isn't the priority.
"Savings are important, but I think green energy is more important, so even if it's the same, I think it will be a benefit to the environment so that's a good thing," Wilson said. 
Hecate officials said residents won't foot the bill for the solar farm project because the project is being paid for by investors, loans and tax credits.
The solar panels that will generate the first 10 megawatts of power will be installed by the end of the year.

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