Last year, Page County passed a moratorium on approving utility-scale solar applications until a utility-scale solar ordinance was written and adopted. The Planning Commission has been working closely with the Bridgewater-based Berkeley Group to draft a utility-scale solar ordinance. The process is nearing completion. The Page County Planning Commission agreed on a draft ordinance with a public hearing on Tuesday, October 13.
Why is it so important for the County to have a utility-scale solar ordinance in place?
Berkely Group Presentation (7/28/2020)
The ordinance determines the broad requirements pertaining to any utility-scale solar installation in the County: the location, setbacks from adjoining properties, screening materials, size, distance from electrical transmission lines, etc.
The draft ordinance defines utility-scale solar as projects over two acres with a capacity in excess of one megawatt. This is in contrast to small or medium scale projects or distributed solar where the energy is used on the home, farm, business or school where it is generated (sometimes called behind-the-meter). In addition to the specifics of the ordinance, an applicant must complete a special use permit (in some counties, referred to as a conditional use permit) that adds specific requirements that pertain to an individual project. These site-specific requirements provide the details specific to the applicant while the ordinance provides broader regulations that must be met by any permit submitted to the County for any utility-scale solar development.
Localities throughout the Shenandoah Valley are seeing an increase in the number of utility-scale solar proposals. See link for a list of utility-scale solar projects that have been approved – and turned down in our neighboring counties. Clear local standards will result in utility-scale proposals that are thoughtfully designed and consistent with communities’ vision for their future.
Page County’s draft ordinance was shaped by significant public input over many months, and it provides the guidelines officials need to evaluate impacts of utility-scale proposals. Local ordinances work best when they reflect the desires of the community as expressed by the public.
The public hearing on Tuesday, October 13 will be open to the public at the County Administration building (with very limited capacity due to social distancing requirements) but it will live-streamed through Zoom with login numbers included on the agenda.
Public comments regarding the draft ordinance can be made through the County website.
If the Planning Commission approves the draft of the utility-scale solar ordinance on October 13, it will go to the Board of Supervisors and a second public hearing will be held. We will keep you posted on the dates.