In Augusta County and throughout our service area, the Alliance has been tracking the activity of the utility-scale solar industry for over two years. The state has set a 2050 deadline to achieve a zero-carbon grid that has triggered proposals for large solar arrays up and down the Valley to play a role in meeting that goal.
What we’ve learned in this process is that where and how utility-scale solar should be built is incredibly nuanced. There are some instances where a utility-scale solar installation could keep a farm viable, and other instances where it could perhaps take land out of farming forever. Then there is the project design – some developers are sensitive to the qualities we value in the Valley and include large buffers to block the installation from view of locals and visitors while taking care during construction and in the project’s long-term maintenance to protect water and soil quality and even in some cases complement agriculture by planting pollinator species around the installed panels. Others are not so sensitive.
Augusta County just wrapped up a process to update the comp plan and zoning documents to address large solar proposals. These documents signal to developers the parameters that the county is willing to consider in a project – things like buffer size, setbacks from neighboring properties, etc. But, there is a lot more to consider as the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors evaluate proposals and they want your input!
The county’s Utility-Scale Solar Survey is open until May 12 and will ask your opinion on where in the county is appropriate for solar development, what scale is appropriate and what local benefits of utility-scale solar developments you value most.
We applaud the county for taking this step to make sure it can participate in renewable energy goals in the vision of its residents!