No action on solar uses

Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2017

No action was taken following a joint public hearing between the Charlotte County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors on Monday night regarding the proposed amendments for solar uses.

County Purchasing Agent/Planner Monica Elder said that following the public hearing, the planning commission met to review the items discussed.

“Because of the importance of this issue, we felt like we needed some additional time maybe to go back and do some research and come back to this,” said Elder.

A recommendation was not made to the board of supervisors during its regular Tuesday meeting.

“The county was first approached in September 2015 with a solar application of an inquiry made by Holocene, a solar developer out of North Carolina,” said Elder during the public hearing.

She said at the time, the county’s zoning ordinance did not include any information relating to solar uses. In light of this, the planning commission reviewed options.

Holocene Clean Energy’s 15-megawatt solar farm is planned for Drakes Branch. The proposed location of the facility is east of Drakes Branch near the intersection of Highway 59 and Ingleside Lane.

The parcels are owned by C.E. and Bonnie Hall and William J. Hall.

“At the time, there were only a couple of solar projects in the state,” said Elder. She said the first draft was adopted in July 2016 and the application from Holocene was approved in August 2017.

“Since then, the planning commision of Charlotte County and the other surrounding localities have learned a great deal about solar, and solar presence in Virginia has significantly increased,” Elder said.

She said based on the increase in knowledge, the planning commission decided it would be important to review some of the points in the original regulations.

Amended supplementary regulations included location and size restrictions, among many others, such as the following: “No utility-scale solar energy system shall be located within one mile of an existing town boundary or another approved or constructed utility-scale solar energy system,” and “No solar energy system shall exceed 500 total acres.”

Elder said this is in place to make sure the projects are spread out more and to keep the rural character of the community to promote agriculture.

“We feel like the 500-acre limit is really important to those ideas that we have in the comprehensive plan,” she said.

Additionally, Elder said one of the greatest concerns originally was the decommissioning of the solar farm after its predicted 25- to 40-year life expectancy.

“They will be required to provide a complete decommissioning plan,” Elder said.

She said the plan should include the life expectancy of the project, decommissioning cost, how decommissioning cost is determined and how it will be insured.

“They’re also required to guarantee that cost at a federally-insured financial institution,” she said. Additionally, “salvage value would not be permitted as a way of guarantee.”

She said the value of salvage changes.

Drakes Branch resident Bruce Hall said he is located next door to the solar project that has already been approved.

“I was approached back in April from a different company (Hexagon) for a smaller plan, it’s a 15-acre project, but I only have problems with the one-mile restriction that you were talking about in the draft,” he said. “That’s the only thing I have a question about. Within a one-mile radius, I’m just right across the street …”

County Seat Planning Commission member Andrew Carwile said the restriction is based on a utility-scale project.

“It would depend on which category he fell in,” said Elder.

She said most of the changes relate to utility-scale projects.

Cullen/Red House Supervisor Nancy Carwile said she would like to thank everyone for their hard work to get the project right.

“It’s very important that we think about the future of this county,” she said. The planning commission will meet January 16 at 7 p.m. for further discussion.

A complete draft of proposed amendments can be found at