LETTER — Questions answered about solar farms
To The Editor:
As developer of the proposed Randolph Solar project here in Charlotte County, I would like to answer some questions raised in a recent Letter to the Editor, “What’s the rush on solar farms?”
The development of a solar project, regardless of size, is anything but a “rush.” In fact, the permitting and regulatory approval process in Virginia takes two or more years from the initial proposal to the beginning of construction. In between are several public hearings, local stakeholder and educational outreach opportunities are held by the developer, as well as numerous environmental, economic, cultural and historic resources impact studies.
Randolph Solar has already begun outreach to the community even before officially submitting an application to the county, and we will continue to engage citizens in the weeks, months and years to come. We listen to feedback from neighbors, community organizations and county residents, then use your input to improve our project plans. On behalf of SolUnesco, I commit to Charlotte County that we will take all reasonable steps to incorporate the community’s feedback and to inform the community.
Local government plays a vital role through the conditional use permit process that all utility scale projects must follow in Charlotte County. This process allows the community to assess the specifics of a proposed project and determine the benefits. The local permitting also provides a good balance for the private property rights of Charlotte County landowners. We do not believe most citizens would like being told where on their land they can and cannot plant certain crops; this likely holds true for solar projects as well.
Solar is a temporary use that preserves the land for future generations. Unlike most large development projects, the panels, racking and other equipment that make up a solar project can be removed at the end of its useful life, allowing a resumption of agricultural use, if that is the property owner’s desire. Solar technology has been extensively studied, widely deployed and is a safe energy-producing technology. Numerous regulatory processes are in place that protect watersheds, native plants and animals, and historical resources.
Finally, the Southern Environmental Law Center report cited does not advocate exclusively for solar development on previously disturbed lands, rooftops, or in non-agricultural settings. In fact, the same report recognizes “existing federal and state laws and local ordinances in many places provide for environmental review of such projects.” Charlotte County has the power to implement additional conditions on proposed solar projects through the application of a conditional use permit. These conditions can address concerns like construction hours and traffic.
Charlotte County is without a doubt a uniquely beautiful place in Virginia, and our goal as a developer is to ensure our project benefits the county while maintaining the rural character enjoyed by both lifelong residents and newcomers drawn to the county for that very reason.
We invite you to find more detailed information about Randolph Solar at www.randolphsolar.solunesco.com.
(Editor’s Note: Francis Hodsoll is the CEO and co-founder of SolUnesco.)