Amazon Building Solar Farm in Pittsylvania County

photoA solar/wind farm in California (Staff photo)

To the surprise of some local officials, Amazon says it is building a solar farm in Pittsylvania County, near Danville in southern Virginia. It will be the seventh Amazon solar farm in Virginia. Amazon could not find enough land to build the plant in Northern Virginia, according to Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville).

Once complete, the new Amazon Solar Farm will provide 45 megawatts (MW) of renewable capacity and is expected to generate 100,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean energy annually, Amazon said in a news release. Both projects are expected to begin producing clean energy in 2020 and will supply clean energy to the company’s Amazon Web Services datacenters, which power Amazon and millions of AWS customers globally.

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Other than that, Amazon, which is building its second headquarters in Arlington, didn’t share a lot of details. Many Pittsylvania County politicos didn’t know anything about it until the announcement was made and as of Thursday afternoon still were unclear on almost all of the details, according to a report in the Danville Register & Bee. The location of the planned farm was not provided in the announcement, and Amazon would not provide any information beyond what was in the news release, the newspaper said.

The Register & Bee said county real estate records don’t list any recent land purchases by Amazon. But while no one seems to know where the solar farm is going, local officials are certain they’re not on the hook for any incentives.

But another local newspaper, the Chatham Star Tribune, said the solar plant will be in Gretna, Virginia, on land owned by Luther, Dianne, and Terri Moon. On May 21, the Pittsylvania County Planning Commission gave the board of zoning appeals (BZA) their unanimous go-ahead for approval for the Moon property, the paper said. 

“Approximately 10 acres represents one megawatt of electricity,” Del. Marshall said. “What Amazon has told us from day one is they want to be on 100-percent clean energy.”

Pittsylvania County did not offer incentives of any kind to encourage the tech giant to build their project in the county, confirmed County Administrator David Smitherman, the Register & Bee said.

“Cleaner environment, more jobs”

Statewide political leaders were more sanguine.

“I applaud Amazon for their continued investment in clean and renewable energy projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Virginia Senator Mark R. Warner. “This solar energy project in Pittsylvania County will lead to a cleaner environment and more jobs in the community.”

“It’s wonderful to see the announcement of these new projects, which will help bring more renewable energy to the Commonwealth of Virginia where Amazon has already helped bring significant solar energy projects online,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “Amazon’s new solar farm in Virginia will create jobs and economic development in rural Virginia, and will continue to build upon our role as a leading state for renewable energy in the U.S.”

“Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon,” said Kara Hurst, Director of Sustainability, Amazon. “Major investments in renewable energy are a critical step to address our carbon footprint globally. We will continue to invest in these projects, and look forward to additional investments this year and beyond.”

Amazon’s investments in renewable energy were recently recognized in the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 2018 Solar Means Business Report, which ranked Amazon #1 in the U.S. for amount of corporate on-site solar installed in 2018, and #2 for total amount of solar installed to date. Amazon’s solar projects in the U.S. have offset the CO2 equivalent of more than 200 million miles of truck deliveries. Globally, Amazon has 66 renewable energy projects – including 51 solar rooftops – that are expected to generate 1,342 MW of renewable capacity and deliver more than 3.9 million MWh of clean energy annually.

 

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.