New Dawn for Solar Power Farm Plan

It has been over a year since Cornerstone Partners told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors about the firm’s plan to build a 20mW power generation facility on Monty Gibson’s farm just north of Route 340 and east of Route 522 near the Double Tollgate power substation. But after the Board of Supervisors approved the preferential zoning needed to accommodate Cornerstone Power’s special use permit application, nothing more has been heard from the Chicago-based firm.

Solar power panels

Solar power panels

But according to Clarke County Planning Administrator Chuck Johnston, Cornerstone is about to re-energize its efforts to place a solar power generation plant in Clarke County.

“I had a call from Nick Bullinger yesterday” Johnston told the Clarke County Planning Commission on Friday. “Some of you may remember him from the solar plant presentation by Cornerstone Development.”

Johnston said that Bullinger’s firm is now looking at expanding its lease agreement to include the entire 240 acres of Gibson’s farm, up from just 145 acres in previous design discussions. Johnston said that the acreage increase is needed to accommodate revised plans to install motorized solar panels that rotate as the Sun moves across the sky rather than previously envisioned fixed panels.

Johnston speculated that the additional land is required to ensure that solar array panels are never positioned in the shadow of other panels as the panels track the sun.

Cornerstone Partners’s solar panel farm is exactly the type of development that Clarke County officials would like to see in the Double Tollgate area because it will generate significant tax revenues but at the same time require very little infrastructure support like sewer and water.

In June 2010 Clarke County’s Commissioner of Revenue Warren Arthur estimated that Cornerstone Power would pay $413K in taxes during their first year in business. Arthur said that approximately $348K of the total would be attributable to the solar modules and inverters based on the county’s standard commercial tax rate for “Machinery & Tools” of $1.25 per $100.

Whether the addition of motorized tracking panels will increase the county’s potential tax revenue will not be fully known until Cornerstone provides specific project details as part of its Special Use Permit application.

Johnston told the Planning Commissioners that Conerstone’s Bullinger plans to submit the special use permit application in September, 2011.