The Historic Triangle is going big on solar, with construction set to commence on the region’s second major project — and two more on deck.
Norge Solar, which will be operated by Dominion Energy Virginia, is planned to occupy 220 acres near the Norvalia and Farmville Estates neighborhoods in James City County. The solar farm will be capable of producing 20 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power more than 3,000 homes.
The timeline for completion of the project, first proposed in 2017, was extended because of unforeseen delays. In October 2020, the James City County Planning Commission approved a yearlong extension of the special-use permit allowing Dominion and its partners to construct the solar farm, moving the latest permissible date of completion to January 2023 from a year earlier.
Dominion and Strata Clean Energy, a Durham, N.C.-based engineering, procurement and contracting firm, have been securing permit reviews and other paperwork necessary to start construction, said County Planning Director Paul Holt. That part of the project is coming to a close, Holt said, and ground disturbance is the next phase.
Construction will begin as soon as early summer, with the project’s completion as soon as the end of the year, according to Dominion spokesperson Lucy Rhodes. Local residents can expect to see a small increase in traffic on U.S. Route 60 in the Norge area while construction is taking place.
The heaviest impacts will be to residences in Norvalia and Farmville Estates, where construction vehicles will access the site.
“Standard tractor trailers and flatbed trucks are the largest types of vehicles residents can expect,” Rhodes wrote in an email. “To minimize traffic impacts, we are proactively working to schedule deliveries between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to avoid impacts to local residents, trash collection and school bus schedules.”
Norge Solar follows on the heels of Dominion’s Rochambeau solar project about a mile east. Rochambeau, also a 20-megawatt project, came online in December last year and is operating successfully, according to Rhodes.
Dominion has a power purchase agreement with the College of William & Mary for Rochambeau’s output. The university’s goal is to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
In March, the James City County Board of Supervisors approved a special-use permit allowing the construction of a 26-acre, three-megawatt solar farm. That project, which is being developed by Char
lottesville-based Hexagon Energy LLC, will be located on Racefield Drive in the northern part of the county.
Meanwhile, a fourth large-scale solar farm in the region is moving forward in York County on a sizeable parcel hemmed in by Penniman Road, the Colonial Parkway and Kings Creek.
The 430-acre property was once the site of a fuel farm and was most recently surplus land owned by the state. The Eastern Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority, a multijurisdictional economic development initiative, bought the property in December 2021 and is leasing much of the land to Dominion for a solar farm. York, Isle of Wight, Poquoson, Williamsburg, Hampton and Newport News are together funding costs associated with this initiative and will share in revenues generated.
Known as King’s Creek, the project is in Dominion’s permitting process and is expected to be in service by 2024, Rhodes said.
About 90 acres of the property will remain outside of the area being set aside for the solar farm, to be developed for light industry, said Jim Noel, York County’s economic development director. That could include a testing site for unmanned aerial craft, sometimes referred to as a drone park.
The Historic Triangle’s ambitious foray into solar power mirrors a larger trend in the Chesapeake Bay region, with thousands of potential renewable energy projects already proposed. But the practical realities of bringing so much power online could stymie that thrust.
Earlier this month, the Bay Journal reported that more than 800 solar projects in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania were on pause while waiting for approval from PJM Interconnection, the organization that coordinates the electrical grid in a large portion of the Mid-Atlantic. PJM’s inability to study so many applications at once is causing a backlog that’s forcing delays in the rollout of renewable projects.
According to the Bay Journal, the lag comes at a time when many states have adopted aggressive climate-change mitigation policies that rely on renewable energy. In 2020, Virginia set a goal of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2050.
Ben Swenson, email@example.com