Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield attended the grand opening of fire station. Walker County hosted an open house for its new fire station in Flintstone on July 14, 2017.

LAFAYETTE, Ga. — A national solar power company is opening a project in Walker County.

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield approved a conditional use variance for a 16-acre swath of land in the Kensington community on Thursday night, giving Dadeni Solar the OK to build the project. According to an application from the property owner, Wesley Daniel Butler, the company has 20-year agreements to sell energy to the Tennessee Valley Authority and North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation.

Butler did not return multiple calls or a text message seeking comment on the project Thursday. But Phillip Cantrell, chair of the Walker County planning commission, said Dadeni Solar plans to cover the 16 acres with solar panels.

"They don't do any kind of storage or anything," he said. "It's direct, from the panels to the [power] line."

Robert "Barney" Oldfield, the founder of an investment firm in Illinois, started Dadeni Solar in 2014. According to the alumni magazine for Western Reserve Academy, an Ohio boarding school, Oldfield targets rural properties and old industrial sites in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States.

"All of Dadeni's solar PV projects are considered 'small' commercial and industrial projects," he told the alumni magazine in its Winter 2018 edition. "So, all considerations, negotiations and final decisions are local. Dadeni will not pursue a project if there is a hint of local opposition."

Some environmental groups have criticized TVA for failing to produce more solar power. While North Carolina has 6,000 megawatts, Georgia Power has almost 3,000 megawatts and Florida has about 2,000 megawatts, TVA is at about 500 megawatts.

"In the long run, to avoid becoming the Sears or [JC]Penney of a few decades from now, the smart move would be to embrace the future rather than to try to slow it down," former EPA Chief of Staff Michael Vandenbergh told the Times Free Press in an Oct. 8 article about the lack of solar production coming out of TVA.

As part of the new site, Cantrell said Georgia Tech is designing a building where people can learn about solar energy. It will be about the size of a two-car garage and will show how solar cells collect energy.

The property is located near the intersection of Kensington Road and Highway 193, west of LaFayette.

Rossville cleanup

On Thursday night, Whitfield also approved a $16,000 check to Marion Environmental, the company that helped secure and clean up the abandoned plant where toxic chemicals spilled in March. According to Rossville police, a looter broke into the old Coats American plant on Maple Street to strip the copper from transformers. In the process, the transformers tipped over, spilling out polychlorinated biphenyls, a chemical linked to cancer, reproductive issues in men and mental development issues in children.

The bill approved Thursday covers site checks that Marion has performed since April, Legge said. It also covers a plan to dispose of the transformers, which the Environmental Protection Agency approved earlier this month. The next step? A company out of Pell City, Alabama, will remove the transformers.

Gospel for the government

Legge said the county also received a check from Ray Burnfin, a LaFayette man who organized a gospel singing this month. Burnfin promised to dedicate all proceeds from the performance to the county government. He hoped the effort would help decrease property taxes in the long run.

Burnfin, 71, sold tickets to adults for $15 and children for $5.

Legge said Thursday night he couldn't remember the exact value of the check. But he said the county received about $250.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.