Supervisors consider caps on solar

Supervisors Eric Purcell, Fitzgerald Barnes, and Duane Adams discuss solar limits. 

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors met on Sept. 7 to discuss planning for utility-scale solar developments. The county has approved several large solar projects in the past five years; now officials are considering putting a cap on how many they will allow.

One option the board has is to place a total acreage cap on the amount of land that can be used for solar. Brunswick County in Southside Virginia has gone that route, according to Robert Gardner, the county’s community development director.

Another option is to put a cap on the total amount of energy the solar facilities would produce all together. With this method, the county could have many small solar facilities before it reaches the maximum energy output, or the county can approve two or three large solar facilities that would cumulatively reach the same amount of energy. 

Both Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry District) and Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral) expressed their concerns with the growth in solar facilities. Adams referred to the issues with stormwater runoff at the Belcher Solar project near Waldrop Church Road as “appalling.” Barnes hinted that it was clear that topography was not taken into consideration when designing the project.

Dominion Energy spokesperson Sarah Marshall apologized to the board of supervisors earlier this year after repeated instances of stormwater escaping the solar site during large rainstorms and damaging neighboring farmers’ properties.

Supervisor Eric Purcell (Louisa District) spoke about a 1,400-acre solar project that the board has already approved on land owned by him and his father Charles. He noted that there would only be 600 acres of solar panels on the property; much of the remaining acreage would be used to plant trees for a vegetative buffer. 

Supervisor Toni Williams (Jackson) suggested the board make a quick decision on whether to impose a cap on solar development, as there are more project applications in progress. 

A community meeting on another solar project on land owned by the Purcells near Chopping Road was scheduled yesterday. The board also approved a change Monday in the proffers for the 800-acre site the Louisa County Industrial Development Authority owns on Davis Highway, with an eye toward locating solar on that property.

Many of these solar developments are occurring in the center of the county because an electric transmission line passes through the area on its way to North Anna Power Station.

Supervisors Chairman Bob Babyok (Green Springs) appointed Barnes and Adams to a committee that will make recommendations on how to handle future solar projects. The committee is expected to report back their decisions at the board’s Oct. 4 meeting. 

A public hearing was held toward the end of the meeting to discuss the possible solar project on the Davis Highway property, known as the Cooke Rail Park. There were originally 11 proffers, but a new 12th proffer will effectively make the first eleven moot. The board voted 7-0 to add the 12th proffer.

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