Approval for a solar farm in St. Mary’s County has been delayed on account of objection from the nearby naval base.
The application for the Whitetail Solar Project was filed last year by Lightsource Renewable Energy Development on Aug. 26, requesting authority to construct a 20-megawatt, alternating-current solar photovoltaic facility along with associated interconnection facilities in the county.
The site address is 20811 Three Notch Road in Lexington Park, near the Home Grown Farm Market in the Mattapany Rural Legacy Area, and would be placed near an existing electrical line, allowing more energy to be dispersed throughout the region by feeding into a commercial electrical grid. The facility would take up an 81-acre portion of the approximately 282-acre property.
H&B Solutions was selected as the consultants for the project.
At last Thursday’s planning commission meeting, where the board was originally supposed to review the concept site plan and hear public comment regarding the solar farm, consultants of the project asked for a continuance after receiving the most recent letter from Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
A Jan. 6 letter from Capt. Christopher Cox, commanding officer of the base, pointed out that the project is located within 4½ miles of the center airfield of NAS Pax River and could potentially impact military operations and readiness.
The letter read that operational concerns were “based on the specified location and proposed configuration of panels, including orientation, tilt, and tracking type,” however, “this project is expected to present a low risk to operations,” therefore the base did not have any objection.
Mentioned in the letter was the right of the Navy base to object to the use of any materials, contractor or subcontractor firm that is owned, controlled or produced by a foreign entity.
Three days later, a second letter was sent, claiming that the base now objects to the project as proposed.
This Jan. 9 letter said that NAS Pax River has “serious concerns regarding some of the specified vendors, subcontractors, and sourcing of materials which appear to be either foreign owned, sourced or controlled by foreign government entities, and or have close associations with other foreign owned firms that have been added to the Department of Commerce’s List and banned from the U.S.”
“We are experts on the public service commission process,” Dane Bauer, a consultant from H&B Solutions, said at Thursday’s meeting, adding that they would like the opportunity to solve the issue with the base before they continue.
According to Bauer, NAS Patuxent River is concerned that the use of equipment and contractors from foreign agencies could potentially compromise security of the base.
When asked which foreign entity was involved with the project, the naval base’s communications office told The Enterprise “out of discretion for all other involved parties, NAS plans to discuss these concerns directly with the developer In the near future to find an agreeable way forward.”
George Allan Hayden, chairman of the county’s board of appeals, told Bauer the next available date for a public hearing is Feb. 27.
He reminded the consultant that any new information will need to be submitted to the board a week in advance of this date and must be submitted to the county’s department of land use and growth management a week before that.
“Does that leave you with enough time?” he asked, with Bauer responding that he believes it will.
The board approved the continuance of the Whitetail solar project public hearing for Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the main meeting room of the Chesapeake Building, located at 41770 Baldridge St. in Leonardtown.