By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2019 Issue
Last year, California—birthplace of the environmental protection movement—once again led the nation in establishing a new green energy standard: reaching 100 percent renewable energy in a little over 25 years. As many as 13 other states are expected to follow CA’s example this year.
Industrial giants also are reaching for the Golden State’s standard. Samsung recently announced that it plans to make its factories and offices in the U.S., Europe, and China run on 100 percent renewable energy. Apple and Google say they have both purchased enough renewable energy to offset their global energy consumption. Industry experts say Samsung most likely also will purchase renewable energy to offset consumption, rather directly be powered by renewables.
But the fact is that the shape of most manufacturing facilities is well suited for the space requirements of solar power. The rectangular roofs of America’s factories are a good fit for rooftop solar arrays.
Solar panels work at peak efficiency when oriented toward the southern sky, an orientation that usually works on a manufacturing facility roof because industrial plants are rarely located on a site close to tall buildings.
Ground-based solar arrays are an option for manufacturing facilities that do not have flat rooftops or if the top of the structure is not built to support the added weight of solar arrays.
Most manufacturing sites have the land area to accommodate ground-mounted systems. Suitable places to install solar arrays include large parking lots, greenfields and/or brownfields. These spaces usually work well for solar panel arrays, which can be combined with rooftop panels to greatly expand the power generated by a solar installation.
Ground-based solar installations require approximately 100 square feet of land for each kilowatt of system capacity. Most factories opt for a solar PV farm in the 100-kilowatt to one megawatt (1,000 kilowatt) range to offset a significant portion of the fossil fuels they may need to meet their electricity needs. This translates into a quarter acre of land/space (10,000 square feet) for a smaller array and 2.5 acres (100,000 square feet) for a large one.
MAKING SOME GREEN IN A GREEN COUNTY
Fauquier County strives to be the “greenest county” in Virginia. It is only fitting that a county with over 600 square miles of natural beauty, filled with horse farms, agricultural businesses, parks and open space, would embrace environmentally friendly economic development.
The County is working hard to strengthen and diversify its economic base, and as such, is a development friendly community. In this regard, Fauquier County has found a means to craft its development in a way that is not only supports business growth, and is environmentally responsible. Trusting to the private businesses to make economically sound decisions, the county now offers incentives to investment by environmental firms, to energy efficient companies and to those moving toward a more environmentally sound course of development.
Encouraged by the efforts of our western neighbors, who have long recognized that economic development and environmental responsibility were intertwined and not opposed, Fauquier began to look at what might be possible here in the east. We found some innovative ideas on how economic developers were providing incentives that not only helped the environment, but also provided a boost to their business expansion and attraction efforts. What’s more, communities like ours, who value entrepreneurship are natural breeding grounds for environmental startups.
Virginia already authorizes communities to offer incentives to technology companies, defense industry businesses and tourism-related firms, but why not, we asked, offer incentives to spur environmentally friendly development using a similar venue to the zone programs cited in the three previous areas? Thus, with strong support from Delegate Michael Webert and others in our state delegation, the Virginia legislature passed the Green Development Zone authorizing legislation and the Governor signed it. The celebration of this commitment by Virginia included the Republican leadership of the state legislature and our Democrat governor, an impressive case of bi-partisan cooperation.
Fauquier County spurred the creation of this new tool, and became the first county in Virginia to create local Green Development Zones. The speed with which the local ordinance was adopted, by unanimous vote, coupled with the relatively easy passage of the state authorization spoke volumes about Virginia’s strong commitment to economic development and to environmental responsibility as a development tool.
Buoyed by the inspiring passage of legislation at all levels, the County went quickly to work to take advantage of this new tool and to institutionalize the commitment to the “Green Revolution” in economic development. A new terminal is under construction at the Warrenton/Fauquier Airport and it will be a shining example of green development, with solar panels, energy efficiency and rainwater harvesting all being employed. Development opportunities are amplified by a fuller service local airport and the use of green technologies that help to set an example for development in the surrounding district.
Fauquier County is hopeful that the airport, coupled with enhancements to water and sewer service to the area, will help create a critical mass of businesses on and around the airport, and many of these businesses could well be attracted by the Green Development Zone incentives.
Investment in Fauquier County’s Green Development Zones, which cover the entirety of our Service Districts (areas designated as priority locations for business development) include the waiver or reimbursement of several county development fees, as well as three years of tax reimbursement for Business Personal Property, BPOL and some other local taxes. What’s more, these incentives can also be layered upon or added to incentives offered under the Technology Zones, Defense Production Zones and Tourism Zones. Fauquier County offers incentives under every program authorized for local incentives by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
To underscore the notion that economic developers and environmentalists can collaborate, the Green Development Zone concept and adoption at the local level was openly supported by local environmental groups, further strengthening the team concept that had already been building in both camps. Moreover, the county commitment to green development has helped inspire our young people, many of whom did background research in support of developing this Zone concept and which influenced some of their feelings to remain in the area or to return after college. This is a huge boon to the local economy, as many rural communities are searching for ways to keep more of their young people in the area.
This effort in Fauquier County, and at the state level, has been bipartisan, and is a force that brings together baby boomers and today’s young people, business owners and government and neighboring communities around the possibility of regional approaches.
Ultimately, as more communities step through the door that Fauquier helped open, Virginia could well become “The Greenest State on the East Coast.”
[This section was written by Miles Friedman.]
SHIAWASSEE COUNTY MOVES FORWARD ON $250-MILLION SOLAR FARM
In Michigan, the Shiawassee County Planning Commission recently unanimously approved Ranger Power’s Special Use Permit request for the Assembly Solar Project, a proposed $250 million solar farm in Hazelton and Venice Townships that will create hundreds of jobs. This is the final step in the zoning approval process, and construction is expected to begin late this year.
“We appreciate the support from local community members, businesses, neighbors and residents as we sought approval for the Assembly Solar Project,” said Sergio Trevino, director of permitting at Ranger Power. “The strong partnership we have forged will ensure this project is a win for the entire community, creating more jobs and revenue for schools and public safety.”
Ranger Power took a community-first approach throughout the permit approval process, working closely with landowners and local residents and meeting with stakeholders to hear their thoughts and answer questions.
“We are excited to bring Assembly Solar to our community, which will create jobs and spur continued growth in Shiawassee County,” said Justin Horvath, president and CEO of the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership. “The response among our members and the community has been overwhelmingly positive, which is testament to the early community outreach and engagement from the Ranger Power team as they made this project a partnership rather than a development.”
The Assembly Solar Project will have a significant positive economic impact on Shiawassee County. The project will generate a $3.2 million increase in household earnings through the creation of more than 300 jobs during construction, with approximately $16 million in construction dollars being spent in Shiawassee County.
“This project will pump economic benefits and tax income into Shiawassee County, benefiting schools, small businesses like restaurants and hardware stores, libraries, and fire and police services, as well as roads and bridges,” said Sean Harris, development manager at Ranger Power.
The Assembly Solar Project, which will be developed on a 1,200 acre site of primarily fields and vacant land, received broad community support throughout the planning process. It is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 394,000 tons annually in the short term—equivalent to the yearly emissions of 77,702 cars.