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Community meetings set to discuss solar / October 19, 2017

Two community meetings have been set Nov. 9 to inform the public about proposals for two solar farms and their possible impact on Halifax County.

Both meetings have been initiated by Cypress Creek Renewables, a green energy firm that is eyeing sites in the Cluster Springs and Nathalie areas for industrial-scale solar facilities.

According to Halifax County Planner Detrick Easley, Halifax County has received applications for five solar farms, but Easley said he has not yet had sufficient time to review all of the proposals.

In advertisements for the upcoming public forums, Parker Sloane of Cypress Creek has invited residents who have questions or concerns about solar farms to come out to ask questions and learn more about solar power generation.

The first meeting is set for Thursday, Nov. 9 from 4-6 p.m. in the Hope meeting room of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.

While there is no set agenda for the meeting, it will focus on a potential solar farm site located just northeast of the intersection of Dogwood Trail and US Highway 501, between South Boston and Cluster Springs.

The second hearing is set for the same day, from 6:30-8 p.m. in the meeting room of the North Halifax Volunteer Fire Department. That hearing is to discuss a proposed solar farm known as “Water Strider,” which is located off Jenny’s Ruff Trail and Bull Creek Road.

In early October, the Halifax County Board of Supervisors approved a zoning ordinance amendment for the construction of solar energy farms in the county. The purpose of the amendment was to set rules for the siting, development, construction, installation, operation as well as for the decommissioning of solar energy facilities at the end of their useful lives.

The ordinance recognizes two types of projects: large and small scale solar energy facilities.

Larger projects must have an approved conditional use permit, while smaller facilities must receive a zoning permit before construction can begin.

Larger facilities shall have setbacks of at least 75 feet from all public rights of way, and from main buildings on adjoining parcels. The solar arrays must also be built at least 25 feet from adjacent property lines.

Also, the project area must be enclosed by security fencing not less than six feet in height and with barbed wire or similar fittings to keep people from climbing over the enclosures. Also, a buffered area at least 15 feet wide must surround the facility.

Applicants are also required to issue a report of the impact of the solar farm on adjacent property owners; the report must be prepared by a qualified third party, such as a licensed real estate appraiser. Developers must also provide an economic impact analysis that shows any changes to the value of the property, as well as any impact on county revenues.

Solar farm owners are also required to carry sufficient liability insurance to cover their operations.

The notices of the community meetings will be printed in this newspaper on Monday, Oct. 30.

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