It is because of our love for the Valley and its future that the Alliance has spent the last few years doing a lot of research and engaging in much thoughtful discussion about solar of all shapes and sizes. We know that solar is part of the transition to renewable energy, and, done right, it can be compatible with and even complement our agricultural region. We have also learned that not all solar projects are done right with proper siting or care for the land, water, and communities that surround them.
One of those “right” projects will be before the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 1:30 p.m. At that meeting, the BZA members will decide whether or not to grant a special use permit that will give the SHENVALEE SOLAR PROJECT a green light.
Shenvalee Solar Project
Here’s why we feel that we can get behind this project. This small solar project preserves the family farm, keeping it in agricultural production, while providing an out-of-sight clean energy source for the community. The Shenvalee Solar Project is located on just over 50 acres behind Draft Avenue (main street) in Stuarts Draft. It is not visible from Draft Avenue and, in fact, it is barely visible from anywhere as it is situated behind a wooded area beyond a county park and near the railroad and Hershey.
Although the total project is 50 acres, just half, 26 acres, will be fenced in and under panels for a 3 megawatt distributed solar project. A tenant farmer has already agreed to graze sheep under the panels.
Of the remaining 24 acres, 9 are forested and will remain so except for a small gravel access road, and the rest will continue to be grazed by cattle like is happening now.
Although this is located in an Urban Service Area with an allowable future land use of medium density residential (3-4 houses per acre), that is not what the landowner wants for the future of her land. That makes this project a win-win for the entire county – tax revenue coming in without the need for spending on services necessary with a new housing development.
Because of Augusta County’s solar ordinance, the proposal also includes provisions for vegetative buffering for the project lifetime and decommissioning at the end of the lease agreement.
Augusta County Coordinator, Nancy Sorrells, will be at the Augusta County Government Center on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. to speak in support of this project. We hope you will join too. If you are unable to attend the meeting but would like to voice support, you can send comments via email to Sandra Bunch, BZA Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you take the time to offer your support for this project, either in person or through an email to the BZA, which we believe will showcase the potential for thoughtfully sited and carefully built solar in the Shenandoah Valley.