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Concentration of solar farms targeted

SoVaNow.com / December 07, 2017
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors is moving to limit the number of solar farms that can be built in close proximity to one another, a change that would not affect six projects that already are in the pipeline for consideration.

ED-1 supervisor J.T. Davis explained the rationale for amending the county ordinance to cut the density limits for solar farms in half. The county currently limits development to 5 percent of the land area of a five-mile radius, which translates to 2,500 acres of permitted solar development over an area of 51,000 acres. The ordinance change would restrict development to 1,250 acres per 51,000 acres.

The six projects with applications pending with the county take up about 3,300 acres, spread around in the Nathalie, Crystal Hill, Cluster Springs and Alton areas.

Davis explained that when Halifax County was drafting its solar ordinance, developers kept their cards close, not disclosing the amount of acreage under consideration for each solar site. With the six applications in hand, the county now understands what it is dealing with — the average acreage for a solar project in Halifax County is 550 acres, he said.

Davis also said information about planned solar projects is available from PJM, the distributor of solar-generated power on the spot market, and by checking this he discovered a 100-megawatt project is planned for his northern Halifax County district. A check of this PJM queue shows that a feasibility study is already completed for the project, which would be located on Perth Road in Nathalie. Another project in the queue, but still in the feasibility study stage, is for an 85-megawatt system in Clover.

According to county planner Detrick Easley, Halifax has more applications for large-scale solar installations than any other county in Virginia.

Based on information from a solar trade magazine, Davis said that average solar farms are from 1-100 acres. The Kentuck project in Pittsylvania County is a six-megawatt solar array currently being built on 65 acres.

The county planning and zoning office has received an application for a project that would adjoin the Water Strider solar field, planned for Jenny’s Trail, to create 4-1/2 miles of solar panels on both sides of Highway 40.

”There are places it belongs, and places it does not belong, we want to rein it in,” Davis added.

Davis concluded that he is getting a lot of pushback on large-scale solar facilities, and the goal is to reach a balance and at the same time protect the citizens of Halifax County.

Supervisors adopted a resolution to send the proposed ordinance change to the Planning Commission, which would then set a public hearing to receive comment on the idea.



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