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IDA Supports $5M Application For Solar Project

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) on Friday morning adopted a resolution of support for a 2011 $5 million application by the IDA and Dominion Virginia Power to the Research and Development Program of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

Last week, the IDA and Dominion Power announced plans to develop a pilot demonstration facility for solar power generation and battery storage in the county.

The proposed facility is expected to generate about four megawatts of power and be the largest integrated solar-battery facility in Virginia.

To make the project feasible, Dominion has reached an agreement with a battery storage manufacturer to maximize the benefits of this unique project for the county, according to IDA Executive Director Mike Sexton.

Sexton explained the project has three entities working together to make it happen:

• Dominion, which estimates it will invest $27.9 million on the project;

• The unnamed manufacturer, which will supply and manufacture the batteries; and

• The University of Virginia, which will work with both Dominion and the manufacturer through its Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering and its Department of Systems Engineering to conduct all its research related to this project in the county.

The IDA and Dominion have submitted the $5 million grant proposal to the Virginia Tobacco Commission’s Research and Development Fund to help fund the project, according to Sexton.

And Dominion plans to ask the Virginia State Corporation Commission for permission to build the facility.  If all the approvals are received, the integrated solar and battery storage facility is expected to begin operating in 2012, Sexton said.

The construction of the solar panel site is expected to create approximately 100 jobs, and the battery manufacturing facility is expected to create about 150 jobs over a 36-month period, Sexton explained, noting these jobs would be on “the higher end of the scale of manufacturing jobs.”

Neither the location for the solar facility nor the manufacturing plant has been chosen at present, Sexton said.

The solar facility will require a space of 30 to 50 acres, according to Sexton. He said he then hopes the manufacturing plant, which must be around 70,000 square feet, will locate in an existing building in the county.

The IDA also elected officers during its quarterly meeting Friday including John Cannon, chairman; Marcus Hargrave, vice-chairman; Lisa Kipps-Brown, secretary-treasurer; and Bill Kelehar, assistant secretary-treasurer.

The board approved a resolution of appreciation recognizing former member Dr. B. Carlyle Ramsey for a job well done on the IDA Board of Directors.

Ramsey began his service on the IDA board in Feb. 2002 and was elected chairman in June 2003 serving in that capacity until April 2004.

In other business Friday morning, Shannon Hair of Dewberry and Davis, who serves as the project manager for the Riverstone site ready construction project, recommended and IDA members accepted a low bid of $751,538.70 from Haymes Brothers, Inc. for a contract to clear and grub lots 2, 3 and 4, lot development for lots 1, 7 and 8 and to redevelop the existing storm water pond located on lot 8.

Also included in the approved motion was authorization for Executive Director Sexton to sign documentation as necessary as it relates to award of this construction contract.

Seven bids on the project were opened May 25 with bids ranging from the low bid of Haymes Brothers to a $1.8 million high bid, Hair said.

The project manager speculated the difference in the contractors’ high and low bids was due to “contractors wishing to keep their employees busy.

“My engineers’ estimate was right around $1.5 million, and we recognize in today’s market contractors want to stay busy. Over the last two years I’ve seen prices go between 40 and 60 percent less than our estimates because of the need in work,” he added.

According to Hair, the contractors will be required to remove 200,000 cubic yards of dirt from the Riverstone sites over a six-month period.

“These numbers are right in line with what we expected,” Hair told IDA members.

Crediting the competition among contractors, Chairman John Cannon said, “We got some extremely good numbers especially on the cost per cubic yard which is unbelievably low.”

Cannon said Haymes Brothers is the firm that originally did the work at Riverstone, and in addition to being familiar with the site is “fully qualified and bonded.”

Hair told IDA officials “there appears to be no rock on the site,” adding Haymes’ bid reflects this fact.

Bob Mitchell of Dewberry said the bids came in under budget because the contractors had seen very accurate topographical maps and knew what the ground looked like.

“In our opinion the IDA has benefited from an economy that is a little bit depressed, and the contractor needs the work right now,” Mitchell said. “Haymes is ready. “They are chomping at the bit to get started.”

He added Dewberry’s recommendation is “based on Haymes’ due diligence and Dewberry’s concerted effort to get to this point.”

Also Friday morning, IDA members authorized the site construction manager (Dewberry) to choose from between three respectable firms to award a construction materials testing (CMT) contract based on proposals received from three contractors.

Mitchell explained he received the bids on June 17 and was not prepared to make a recommendation Friday.

However, he added, “It seems to me that Hurt & Profitt’s proposal is best suited for the firm, and I request the ability to sit down with them and review their proposal and come up with a final number.”

The IDA executive director updated IDA members Friday on the ongoing Energy Center/Modeling and Simulation project at Riverstone telling them the IDA is getting “adequate responses” and “people have interest.”

“We anticipate getting this RFP with adequate interest to proceed to select an operator for the energy center,” Sexton said in his update.

Assistant Director Patsy Vaughan explained a public meeting has been tentatively set for the evening of Aug. 4 at Riverstone on the 115kV transmission line proposed for the site ready project.

She added that a letter of authorization has been signed and accepted by Dominion Virginia Power to proceed with an engineering upgrade that will provide 20 megawatts of power as part of the 34.5 kV substation upgrade.

Cost of the project, expected to be complete Dec. 31, is not to exceed $200,000 approved by the Tobacco Commission.

Board members also received a progress report on the Day site Commerce Lane project.

Vaughan briefed IDA members on updating the Day Site Commerce Lane to Virginia Department of Transportation standards.

The county has received the agreement back from the state approving $500,000 in access road money and establishing a line of credit for the project.

B & B Consultants has been hired to design the project which is due to VDOT by July 12 for their review by Aug. 30.

Bids are anticipated to be advertised July 19-Aug. 2, and a pre-bid conference is set for Aug. 3 with bids due Aug, 25, Vaughan explained.

Bids will be reviewed with the apparent low, qualified bidder to be accepted by Sept. 1, while IDA meets to award the contract pending approval by VDOT.

The right of way must be certified before VDOT will allow construction to begin, she noted.

According to Vaughan, the design for the erosion, control, grading plan on Lot 1 at Riverstone is expected to be submitted for approval by June 25, with a request for bids based on submitted design due July 7.

The IDA staff will receive and review submitted bids by July 30 and make a recommendation to the board in August.

Construction is expected to start with a building pad delivered between Aug. 16 and September.