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Major Player in VA Solar Expansion Under United Nations' Scrutiny

Some of the new solar farms in Virginia are being constructed by a company that the United Nations says has exploited Palestinian natural resources overseas. (Adobe Stock)
Some of the new solar farms in Virginia are being constructed by a company that the United Nations says has exploited Palestinian natural resources overseas. (Adobe Stock)
April 29, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's new Clean Economy Act is paving the way for a burst of solar installations in the Commonwealth. But the United Nations has designated one of the solar providers as a human-rights violator.

Caden-Energix plans to build eight solar installations in Virginia worth a half-billion dollars, according to Grant Smith, research director for the Institute for Research on Middle East Policy. He said the company recently appeared on a list from the U.N. high commissioner for human rights for using its solar resources in occupied Palestinian territory for foreign gain.

"The surrounding community has been deprived of these resources," he said. "They're not allowed to even operate their own solar energy. They can't even buy solar energy from this Energix solar field, which was built on their land."

He said no city or town in Virginia where Energix is building had been made aware of the company's overseas background. Energix officials did not respond by deadline to a request for comment.

Energix projects have been advanced in the Commonwealth by the Virginia Israel Advisory Board. The group is a state-funded council with close ties to the General Assembly that exclusively promotes Israeli economic and education projects in Virginia, to advance the Israeli government's policy agenda.

"The Virginia Israel Advisory Board is the only -- the only -- state taxpayer-funded government entity that is 100% focused on bringing Israeli companies into the states," he said. "There's nothing like it anywhere in the United States; that made it unique."

A 2017 report found that Energix's Jordan Valley site on occupied land has left nearby Palestinian villages suffering from forcible displacement, demolitions and lack of basic services.

The text of the Virginia Clean Economy Act is online at lis.virginia.gov, the U.N. Report on Human Rights is at israellobby.org, a map of Energix sites in Virginia is at google.com, and the "Who Profits" 2017 report is at whoprofits.org.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA