Purcellville Considers Solar Panels, Nutrient Bank on Aberdeen Property

The Town Council last week again discussed ways the town could generate revenue from its 189-acre Aberdeen property.

Representatives from the Sun Tribe clean energy company last Tuesday presented the council with a proposal to lease 110 acres of the property to install a 15- to 20-megawatt solar field to generate and sell power to Dominion Energy or another company. The council also directed the town staff to draft a request for proposals to solicit responses from companies interested in setting up a nutrient bank on the property to sell nutrient credits to developers.

According to Sun Tribe Project Developer Bob Jocz, the company seeks to lease the land for 30 years, which would net the town more than $5 million over that period—coming out to be about $1,515 per acre per year. Before the company and the town would engage in that three-decade lease, Sun Tribe would look to enter into a three-year option lease to provide it time to get the project set up. That lease could net the town $41,000 annually.

As for the nutrient bank, the town staff will draft the advertisement that will solicit interest from firms. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has already authorized the town to sell 77 nutrient credits on 94 acres of the Aberdeen Property. Town Attorney Sally Hankins has said the credits are marketable at a rate anywhere between $18,000 and $25,000 each—allowing the town to generate upwards of $1.9 million from the initiative.

Nutrient credit banks are composed of farmland that is forested in perpetuity. The nutrient credits they generate are regulated by the state and are sold to developers to help protect the Chesapeake Bay from stormwater runoff of impermeable areas—since nutrient credits are intended to offset the developed land by creating a natural habitat.

The town has entertained seven separate initiatives on the Aberdeen Property in recent years but has fully committed to none of them. Those ideas have included implementing a federal drone program, hosting steeplechase events, leasing some of the property to hops farmers, allowing residents to bow hunt and fish, installing an equestrian/hiking/bicycle trail system, and now partnering with Sun Tribe to install solar panels, and generating nutrient credits. The town purchased the Aberdeen Property on Short Hill mountain north of town in 2009 for nearly $2.2 million with the goal of increasing water supply. From 2011 to 2018, farmer Chris Tranchitella leased a portion of the property from the town to grow corn and soybean. He paid the town $25 per acre from 2011 to 2015; no fees were collected during the final three years.


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