Natural Gas NOW
Some 6,000 acres of Spotsylvania County, ironically named after a colonial governor named Spotswood, is now being cleared to create 500 MW of phony power.
I wrote about this ludicrous project last week, but it’s worse than I thought.
Spotsylvania County, Virginia is named for Alexander Spotswood, one of its colonial governor. Just as Pennsylvania stands for “Penn’s Woods,” Spotsylvania means “Spot’s Woods.” That woods, or at least 6,000+ acres of it, is now being destroyed for the sake of a theoretical 500 MW of power that is really about 125 MW at current capacity factors. This is to say a solar farm only produces about 25% of the power at which it is rated based on the sun shining with regularity, a fact never addressed in any of the sPower materials describing their project. The other 375 MW is phony power that will exist in name only, with the actual power being provided by natural gas or some other dispatchable source of energy that can be turned on when it’s cold and dark. And, the whole thing is subsidized to the hilt.
Trying to decipher the facts about a solar project is like trying to find the treasure on Oak Island – intrigue, misleading facts, speculation and no damned treasure. Go the sPower website and you’ll see what I mean. The project home page says “Electricity Generated: 500 MW.” When you go the economic analysis, though, you find the Spotsylvania Solar Energy Center (SSEC) “is a 650-Megawatt (MW) solar project” that “encompasses approximately 6,500 acres, of which approximately 3,500 acres will be developed into the solar project, with the remaining 3,000 acres preserved as undeveloped, vacant land. The project site currently consists of recently timbered land…”
By “recently timbered land,” they mean this:
Clearcutting of everything in site, in other words.
But, why the 500 vs. 650 MW discrepancy? Well, I can’t be sure but it’s most likely because solar panels produce DC power that has to be converted to AC power to go into the grid and there’s a loss of power during the conversion. Solar companies sometimes refer to this their capacity factor, but it’s not the real capacity factor; the one that adjusts for the amount of sunshine or lack thereof, which is typically in the range of only 25% for solar. That’s why it isn’t discussed; because the insanity of clearing this much land for a mere 125 MW of actual generation would be too obvious. Natural gas, by contrast, can achieve a 65% capacity factor, meaning a 500 MW plant will yield 325 MW of actual electricity.
As I’ve also noted time and again here, that’s just the beginning of the insanity because the unreliability of solar to produce electricity when actually needed, combined with its tendency to produce power, when it’s not needed but must, nonetheless, be accepted, completely distorts the costs of energy across the board, requiring duplication of effort and uniformly raising the price of all electricity.
Then, there are the direct subsidies and mandates that further distort everything; the Federal tax credits, the demands to use certain amounts of renewables and this from Section 58.1-3660 of the Virginia Code:
Certified pollution control equipment and facilities, as defined herein, are hereby declared to be a separate class of property and shall constitute a classification for local taxation separate from other such classification of real or personal property and such property…
Such property shall also include solar energy equipment, facilities, or devices owned or operated by a business that collect, generate, transfer, or store thermal or electric energy whether or not such property has been certified to the Department of Taxation by a state certifying authority. For solar photovoltaic (electric energy) systems, this exemption applies only to… 80 percent of the assessed value of projects for which an initial interconnection request form has been filed with an electric utility or a regional transmission organization… on or after July 1, 2018, for projects greater than 20 megawatts and less than 150 megawatts, as measured in alternating current (AC) generation capacity, and that are first in service on or after January 1, 2017.
You might read this and think sPower isn’t eligible, but you’d be wrong. That’s because, among other things, sPower creates multiple LLCs to own different parts of the project so each qualifies, yielding an 80% reduction of what would be normal property taxes on the project. Not a temporary reduction of modest proportion for a few years, nor a phased in incentive such as is often provided for new industrial projects, but a permanent 80% reduction that makes the Amazon deal AOC destroyed look like the lost deal of the century for New York. Talk about corporatism. Virginia has that market cornered.
Even worse is the fact the Virginia Deal will, if I’m reading page 27 of this report, correctly potentially cost the school district money ($5 million over 40 years and mostly upfront) because of the impact of the higher assessment on state aid. It appears whatever the school gains is more than lost because the state bases school aid on assessments, as the 80% state tax subsidy wipes out any real gains. What a state!
Then, there is this, from the same report:
The proposed SSEC project would provide an estimated annual economic impact during its ongoing operational phase of approximately:
- 34 full-time-equivalent jobs.
- $2.5 million in associated labor income.
- $4.7 million in economic output.In comparison, our analysis indicates that in its current agricultural use the property that would occupied by the SSEC provides a potential estimated annual economic impact of approximately:
- 228 full-time-equivalent jobs.
- $1.2 million in associated labor income.
- $2.8 million in economic output.
Do the math. Are we supposed to believe the 34 on-going solar jobs will produce $73,529 of labor income per job but the 228 ag jobs will only produce $5,263 each? Really? I know farming and forestry are tough, but they also have some of the biggest multipliers. These numbers are simply not credible.
Neither is anything else about this project. As the reader who passed this along notes:
“The site is 10 square miles of land and will have all the charm of 6 sq mi. airport parking lot of relentlessly shiny black shiny PV panels and enough perimeter trees so that nobody except planes can see it. As these become more common, expect much more push back because, while everyone wants ‘green’ power, nobody wants to live near or ever see it. If they tried to put up a couple of dozen wind turbines there, there would be armed rebellion. “NIMBY’ has been modified to “Nothing In My Back Yard” and add “NIMLOS” – “Not In My Line Of Sight” to the vocabulary as well.”
Roof top solar is not worth worrying about. All real energy solutions, whether renewable or conventional, will be at an industrial scale, because that is the only way to service urban and suburban areas. Spotsylvania County is just coming to terms with that.
Just read this page from the solar site. It reads like all the things the anti-gassers in New York complained that gas would do. I’m sure that 6 square miles of trees are ready to fling themselves into the chippers and chainsaws, all for the greater green good.
Can’t add much to that other than, perhaps, this picture from the sPower presentation, which demonstrates, via aerial photography, just how much forest is being removed:
Ten square miles of open space lost. Ten square miles of forest fragmentation. Ten square miles of lost carbon sink. Ten square miles of rural character sacrificed. Ten square miles of agriculture and forestry opportunities gone. All for the sake of a money losing, taxpayer subsidized boondoggle in Spot’s Woods.
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