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Solar project not coming; would have created about 150 jobs in Halifax County

Plans to develop a pilot demonstration facility for solar power generation and battery storage in the county have been cancelled, according to Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power.

In June 2010, the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and Dominion Power announced plans for the proposed facility that was expected to generate about four megawatts of power and be the largest integrated solar-battery facility in Virginia.

Norvelle confirmed cancellation of the project on Friday and said development of this type of solar powered project will not occur anywhere else in Virginia.

He blamed the project’s cancellation on failure to get a battery storage manufacturer involved.

“There were extensive delays in the program. These unexpected delays made the battery storage technology unavailable for use in the solar power project, and we’re very disappointed,” he said.

Norvelle said local officials were notified of the project’s cancellation late last year.

“We’re just really disappointed that it didn’t work out. Dominion Virginia Power and local officials did everything possible to make it work out, but we just couldn’t change the timing dilemma,” said Halifax County Industrial Development Authority Interim Executive Director Patsy Vaughan on Friday.

Back in 2010 in an effort to make the project feasible, Dominion announced it had reached an agreement with a battery storage manufacturer to maximize the benefits of this unique project for the county.

The project had three entities working together to make it happen:

• Dominion, which estimated it would invest $27.9 million on the project;

• The unnamed manufacturer, which would have supplied and manufactured the batteries; and 

• The University of Virginia, which would have worked 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 had planned to submit a $5 million grant proposal to the Virginia Tobacco Commission’s Research and Development Fund to help fund the project.

The construction of the solar panel site had been expected to create approximately 100 jobs, and the battery manufacturing facility was expected to create about 150 jobs over a 36-month period.

The battery storage company, which remained unnamed for competitive reasons, had engineered a green battery and coupled it with an environmentally friendly chemistry for alternative energy power management and storage solutions.

In addition to batteries for energy, the manufacturer, in conjunction with the University of Virginia, had planned to work on a family of battery products for power storage in several other rapidly growing billion-dollar industries.

Neither the location for the solar facility nor the manufacturing plant had been chosen at the time of the June 2010 announcement.

The solar facility would have required a space of 30 to 50 acres, industrial development officials said, and the 70,000 square feet manufacturing plant had planned to locate in an existing building in the county.

The solar powered project in Halifax was the only one of its kind on which Dominion was working at the time. 

On Friday, Norvelle said Dominion is now working on a different kind of solar project – this one involving 30 megawatts of power – that will be located on commercial large rooftops in scattered locations across the state.