By Ben Orcutt -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- If things go as planned, the Avtex SuperFund site may soon be home to a solar farm producing electricity for the town of Front Royal.
"We're still looking at November of this year to get started," SolAVerde owner Greg Horton said Thursday.
Horton said that his company is in the process of completing plans for a solar farm on 26 acres at the SuperFund site, now known as the Royal Phoenix.
A former rayon manufacturing plant, Avtex closed in 1989 due to environmental pollution. The 440-acre site is bordered in part by the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and Kendrick Lane.
Horton has been in business in Front Royal since 1992 as the owner of Arctic Air Refrigeration. He is partnering with Leesburg developer William Lauterbach on the solar project, which also includes a solar racking assembly plant to be located in the Old Virginia Industrial Park on Kendrick Lane adjacent to the Avtex property.
"They're set up pretty well for our needs," Horton said, adding that the assembly plant will operate in a 40,000-square-foot space and employ 200 to 250 workers when in full swing.
"We're gonna start manufacturing as soon as we start the project," Horton said, with an eye toward both the plant and the solar farm getting under way at the same time.
"We're not producing panels," Horton said of the racking systems that hold the solar panels. "We're planning on producing our own signature racking system and we're going to be producing that for our farm and other uses."
Horton said SolAVerde is working with an engineer in New Jersey to develop the racks.
"We're using this as a steppingstone for other projects," Horton said. "We're not stopping with just solar."
The solar farm will begin using 26 acres at the Avtex site that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said can be returned to use, Horton said.
Horton said Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, is helping SolAVerde work through the process of using the Avtex site. McDonald could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
"The farm is going to be engineered through a solar engineering firm we're working with," Horton added. "They're one of the leading engineers in [the] country for solar engineering."
Horton declined to name the engineers his firm is working with on the solar racking systems or the solar farm until more of the details can be worked out.
SolAVerde hopes to be able to use federal stimulus money, Horton said, and endeavors to be an industry leader.
"We plan on doing this at other locations," he said. "We're planning on taking this business model to other municipalities. We're concentrating on Front Royal right now. We have to have an agreement with the Town of Front Royal to buy the power. We're in the process of getting that finalized now."
Horton added that SolAVerde could put another solar farm on land the EDA owns in the Happy Creek Industrial Park.
Town Manager J. Michael Graham met with him, Horton said, which was part of the impetus for the solar farm.
"Mike said his goal would be to make Front Royal energy-independent," Horton said. "We're actually doing this for the town and the county. Basically Mike's the one that kind of got the ball rolling on the solar farm."