Localities throughout the Shenandoah Valley are considering solar installations as a step toward renewable energy. Solar installations fall into two categories: utility-scale solar, where the power is fed directly into the grid (sometimes called industrial-scale), and distributed solar where the energy is used on the home, farm, business or school where it is generated (sometimes called behind-the-meter). These proposals, particularly utility-scale, can sometimes become controversial. We were encouraged that Page County is under a self-imposed moratorium on accepting new utility-scale solar applications until a utility-scale solar ordinance is written and approved. So now is the time to get involved! Local ordinances work best when they reflect the desires of the community, so local officials need to hear from you!
County ordinances are rules put in place by local government in a city, town or county that govern local matters like zoning, safety and building regulation. Once written, the ordinance becomes law when voted on by the municipality. Ordinances are meant to implement a county’s comprehensive plan, which encompasses the vision that the community has for its future – what are its values, what it wants to protect and how it wants to grow.
A utility-scale solar ordinance will include such details as the maximum size of installations, where they should be sited and set-backs from public roads and adjoining landowners. It also includes which types of visual screening are required around the development, how long the permit lasts, maintenance requirements and decommissioning procedures.
Protecting prime farmland and tourism are very important so proper siting and scale need to be top priorities. Large land use projects, like utility-scale installations, can have a big impact on a small rural county so one goal of a well-written ordinance is to help thoroughly evaluate and consider those impacts to the community. (Read here for more of our solar best-practices.)
On Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 7:00 pm, the Berkley Group will join the planning commission to discuss the utility-scale solar ordinance they have been working on since February. Though public comments will not be allowed at this meeting it will be a great opportunity for citizens to learn about the draft solar ordinance as well as the larger zoning ordinance review, which will occur in the coming months.
To join the Meeting: Tuesday’s meeting will be open to the public at the County Administration building at 103 South Court St., Luray, VA 22835 (with very limited capacity due to social distancing requirements) but you can join the audio-only Zoom meeting at 7:00 pm by calling (646) 558-8656 and entering meeting ID: 831 2378 6806. You can find the agenda for the meeting here.