Positive communication: Accoina moves forward with solar farm 

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After receiving approval by the Madison County Board of Adjustments, construction of a 1,100 acre solar farm will move forward.

The new solar farm will be located at Redhouse Road.

But, before its approval, a lot of questions and concerns came from area citizens about the project, and what exactly it entailed.

According to Adam Stratton, director of solar development for Acciona — a Spanish-based conglomerate focused on infrastructure and renewable energy — a lot of residents’ concerns were what the farm would look like once constructed.

“Some of the primary concerns that we have seen from residents are mostly visual,” he told The Register. “It is about what they may or may not be able to see from their property.”

Another, he said, is the impact that solar panels will have on the value of nearby property.

Judge Reagan Taylor said he heard the same concerns and questions regarding property values and visibility, but said a board of adjustments study had shown the farm would not decrease value.

“We truly won’t know until it happens,” he said. “Value-wise there have been other things in the same area in the past years that don't look like it has affected property values in a negative way and that may take more research.”

Both Taylor and Stratton said these concerns were typical and often arise when projects like this come and go.

“These are standard concerns that we deal with in most projects and are not new to us,” Stratton said. “These are concerns we are very aware of in the beginning of the development and they will be concerns while we are in the early stages. We are already thinking of how to mitigate, avoid and address concerns before the project moves forward.”

And in order to address questions that people may have, Acciona has already worked to get their name out into the community by participating in local events such as Taste of Richmond with the Chamber of Commerce, as well as donating cups to Dreaming Creek Brewery.

In fact, sometimes, the officials with the project are able to use the brewery as a non-bipartisan meeting space to be able to conduct business when they are in town.

According to Charley Hamilton, co-owner of DCB, he offered up his business as a safe meeting space for them after he heard there was some pushback on the solar farm project — that he is a part of.

Hamilton and his family are one of 14 farms that are leasing land for the project to happen.

While he said he was excited to have the project take place on his farm, he admitted to thinking long and hard about the decision when they approached him.

“Both of my neighbors were doing it also, and I think that all the way around, I would rather see my neighbors have solar farms than I would subdivisions,” he explained.

He said, this is one reason he purchased the property in the first place, to steer clear of large neighborhoods.

Hamilton stated he heard some of the complaints and concerns about the solar farm when the project was gearing up, but shrugged some remarks off as “ridiculous” and a simple case of people just not wanting the structure in their backyard.

“It is a simple matter of ‘NIMBYS’, or ‘Not in my backyard,’” he recalled. “A lot of complaints are the view, but this is my property and I get to decide what to do with it. This is not a trailer park, or a dump and you can always get it back. After the contacts are over and they pull them up and it can go back to the way it was before.”

But overall, Hamilton, Taylor and the Acciona staff believe there has been a lot of positive communication about the project.

“We make an exhaustive effort in the development team to receive emails and respond and make individual phone calls and discuss with neighbors about these items,” Stratton said.

“There has been a lot of communication in a positive way,” he said. “...From the cities, to executives in the county, and even from a business perspective with the Chamber (of Commerce), on a whole it has been very positive and supportive communication."

For more information, visit acciona.com.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6695 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.

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