The Alliance has spent the last few years researching 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. We have been on the front lines working with landowners, developers, and government planners to make sure that only the good projects happen.
To that end, we have two projects in Augusta County, each in different stages of the permitting process, that we can get behind and we hope that Augusta residents, too, can support either through attendance at county meetings or through emails and letters to the proper boards.
In Augusta small scale solar projects (under 50 acres) are first presented to the planning commission that reviews the project application along with the staff report created for that project and then makes a non-binding decision on whether or not the project is in “substantial accord” with the county’s comprehensive plan.
Regardless of whether or not staff and the planning commission (PC) finds the project in “substantial accord,” the project next moves to the board of zoning appeals (BZA), which decides whether or not the project will receive a special use permit. Both PC and the BZA meetings hold public hearings in which people can speak for and against projects.
Solar Projects to Support
Fishersville Road Solar Farm LLC
Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals
Thursday Oct. 5, 1:30 p.m.
This is a small-scale solar energy system (2MW) located on the southeast side of Long Meadow Road at 74 J. Ranch Lane in Fishersville in the Wayne Magisterial District.
The total acreage of the parcel is about 24 acres and the proposed fenced in area is approximately 10 acres.
The parcel is zoned agriculture, but is in an Urban Service Area and the future land use map says that it could be rezoned for Planned Residential should the landowner so desire. The PC recommended that this was not in substantial accord with the comp plan because the long-term planning map for the county says that this land should be developed as a housing subdivision.
In this case, however, the landowner does not want to turn his land into more of what surrounds him, which is hundreds of houses. He wants to keep all options, including farming, open for his land for the next three decades by building a fully buffered site with panels that produce no noise, no lighting issues, and no traffic problems. This allows the land to remain agricultural while potentially improving the soil’s quality over the project lifespan and avoiding additional strain on county resources. The proposed vegetative buffers, strategic siting, elevation profile and setbacks make the project out of sight for most neighbors.
To read more about this project from the county staff report, click here.
If you can attend the meeting to voice support that is great. Or you can send comments via email to Sandra Bunch, BZA Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wayne Avenue Solar Project
Planning Commission Hearing
Tuesday Oct. 10, 7:00 p.m.
Here’s another small-scale solar project, this one in Stuarts Draft and coming before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. for its comprehensive plan “Substantial Accord” review. This is the first step in the permitting process.
This project is on land currently zoned agricultural, but is located in an urban service district with a potential future land use as industrial. However, the land-locked location of this parcel across a railroad track makes the property’s future industrial use improbable.
The landowner is currently farming the land and wants to continue doing that with a solar-sheep grazing co-use. A local farmer has agreed to manage sheep under the solar array.
The size of the parcel is 34 acres with 23 acres fenced around 6 acres of panels (to produce 3 MW of power). More of the acreage, 9 acres, will be dedicated to stormwater controls and an access road. Two acres of vegetative buffering will be added to the land as well.
We hope that you will be able to attend this meeting and give support to this project or send an email to the planning commissioners at: email@example.com.