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Solar Project Questions and Answers

Solar Energy Proposal

Date:    August 1, 2020

Overview

Abingdon has been approached by a solar project development company, TGE Virginia 195 LLC (TGE or TriGlobal) - an affiliate of TriGlobal Energy LLC based in Dallas, TX, to see if we would be interested in leasing a portion of our land to them for a solar energy generation project.  This is part of a larger project the company is working on.  They already have about 800 acres from other nearby property owners under lease.  The lease would be for 25 years with the possibilities of two 10-year extensions and TGE indicates that they look at these as 45 year leases.

What land? Where is it?

The parcel of land we would lease is what we refer to as “Tract B” in our Timber plan.  This is the 70 acre parcel that is behind the church.  Our current timber management plan calls for us to harvest that tract in 2021-2023.  When we harvest that tract, regardless of whether we lease the land to the solar project or not, we would leave an unharvested buffer (much like we did on the recent harvest) to create a curtain of trees which makes the harvest area more discreet.

What have we done so far?

To begin the conversation with TriGlobal, a preliminary group consisting of the Chancellor (David Meeker), the Treasurer (Hugh Bryan), one of our timber coordinators (Rob Atkinson) and the Rector had a phone conversation with two representatives from TriGlobal. These Abingdon individuals represent the legal, financial, and environmental aspects of the project.  Additionally, further conversations have taken place to help understand and clarify the project and lease contract issues.

At the August meeting the vestry will decide if we want to move ahead on this.  The question is “How do we be good stewards of what we’ve been given?”  The project, if developed, would be a different use of our land and would provide a significant income opportunity.   We could set off sufficient buffer so the project is not visible from the church or cemetery.  Additionally, we could set off buffer so that project is not visible from any public road.

Financial Impact

The financial implication of the project are significant.  If we use the land for timber farming, we could expect to realize about $150,000 over 30 years, with almost all of that coming in the last year when we harvest the timber again.  If we use the land for solar project, we would realize about $2 million in the same time frame payable as annual lease payments.  Our philosophy for proceeds from our land has been that long term assets go to long term needs, and we would follow this for any solar project income.

What are the steps of making this decision?

In our Episcopal tradition, the vestry has the authority to make the decision.  The Trustees are empowered to act as agents for the vestry and would be charged with carrying out the vestry’s decision.

At Abingdon we strive to have a great degree of transparency – especially with issues as large as this one would be.  If the vestry decides not to move forward, the process is finished and they would report to the congregation how they came to that decision.  If the vestry decides to move forward, they would call for a congregational vote to approve the decision, as with similar matters in the past.

How would that vote take place?

Due to the pandemic, we would not have an in-person vote and ballots would be sent to all individuals who meet the criteria of eligibility for our normal voting.  Those eligible to vote would be Confirmed Communicants in Good Standing as reported in the most recent parochial report.  This means that in 2019 an individual met all the following – was over 16; was a confirmed member of Abingdon; received Communion at least 3 times; and made a financial gift to the church budget.

What would happen then?

If the vote were to proceed, then the Trustees would enter into a lease with TriGlobal.  The first phase of the lease allows us to harvest our timber, as is already planned.  After the harvest, they would install their equipment and we would begin receiving rent payments.

What about the condition of the land?

The lease includes a provision that at the end of the lease, all equipment and footers must be removed and to leave the land in a condition reasonably similar to its original condition at the start of the lease.  By County ordinance, the company would be required to provide a bond with Gloucester County that would ensure Abingdon and all lessors would be able to restore the land.

Why is this happening now?

From a larger perspective, developers of solar energy are either building massive projects which include substations to connect to the grid or are seeking out existing substations which have capacity that can be used to connect a solar project to the grid.  In our location, the coal fired generation plant in York County called for transmission lines and other infrastructure that makes Gloucester, and our area in particular, a prime location for solar energy production.  The existing substation in Hayes has capacity for this project. There are currently several areas of the County that are being considered for solar development. One local landowner said, “there probably is not anyone with more than 50 acres in Gloucester that has not been approached by a solar developer.” TriGlobal has moved their project to the point that they believe it will become viable and they are now in the process of trying to get land under contract so they can configure a good project.  This project will use up the capacity at the Hayes substation and likely preclude any other solar projects in the area of the church.

 

Here is a map to give you an idea of where the project would be placed.