Hecate’s Pulaski Solar Project making headway

hecate energyBy JAY POOLE

Spokesman for the Pulaski Solar Project

Hecate Energy’s Pulaski Solar Project is now in the final phase of the approval process. Based upon the recommendation of the Pulaski Planning Commission in 2021, the Pulaski Board of Supervisors approved the issuance a Special Use Permit (SUP) to Hecate Energy (which was revised in 2022 to include acreage more suitable for solar development) that would allow for construction of this facility.

The County’s approval of the Pulaski Solar Project SUP was the initial required step in the regulatory process that governs the siting of solar generation facilities in Virginia.  Hecate then accelerated discussions with PJM, the regional electrical transmission organization which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in parts of 13 states including Virginia, to assure the Pulaski Solar Project met required guidelines for solar energy generation.  For example, one aspect of PJM’s oversight into the process requires that PJM approve the location of new power lines which will carry the captured electricity from the project’s solar panels.

Simultaneously on the state level, Hecate submitted the formal application for a Permit by Rule (PBR) with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which will ultimately allow for construction of the facility.  DEQ consideration is on-going.

The PBR process requires that an open community forum be held, with company officials available to discuss details contained within the project submission with interested citizens.  This meeting was conducted in Pulaski last Tuesday, October 18. In addition, a comment period that allows interested parties an opportunity to offer comments and ask questions (in writing) regarding the project is open for approximately one more week.

Once the comment period is closed, Hecate will finalize its application for a Permit by Rule to the Department of Environmental Quality.  DEQ has 90 days to review the application, and on-going communication between Hecate and DEQ officials occurs frequently during this aspect of the approval process.  Any public input/comment received will also be reviewed by DEQ during this period.

This lengthy approval process assures that every aspect of the Pulaski Solar Project is reviewed extensively to assure that the project meets all state and federal guidelines and requirements.

Hecate Energy is confident that all due diligence has been applied before and during the formal request process and we look forward to DEQ approval of the Pulaski Solar Facility project application by the end of this year, or early in 2023.

Once formal approval of the Permit by Rule application is issued by the Department of Environmental Quality, Hecate will then initiate a separate and new process to begin actual construction of the facility itself.  It is Hecate’s hope to begin construction on the Pulaski Solar Facility by the end of the 2nd quarter, 2023, or the beginning of the 3rd quarter.  More information regarding that aspect of the project will be available upon anticipated project approval by DEQ.

The Pulaski Solar Project represents one of the largest private capital investments in any project in Southwest Virginia – approximate $350-400 million.  Once completed, the project will create 250 Megawatts of renewable electricity, making it one of the largest solar projects in Virginia and on the East Coast and will enhance Pulaski County’s decades-long reputation as a leader in the production of renewable energy. This positions the county well as a future destination for companies who share Pulaski’s commitment to renewable energy.

Recent legislation enacted by the Virginia General Assembly will also have an additional positive impact on Pulaski County and its citizens.  When the facility is fully operational, a new annual stream of revenue will be generated for the County through a fee assessed on each Megawatt of energy produced by the Pulaski Solar Project.  Alone, this fee will generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the County.

Renewable energy, including energy generated by the Pulaski Solar Project, plays a vital role in the bi-partisan business imperative to expand Virginia’s electrical capacity. Virginia’s future as one of the nation’s business leaders depends on our success in this effort.  We are grateful to Pulaski County and its citizens for their willingness to be partners in this significant undertaking.