LETTER — Courthouse Solar site is problematic

Published 11:13 am Friday, December 4, 2020

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To The Editor:

If Planning Commission members had heard the two presentations given to Charlotte Supervisors on November 10 would they have voted to approve Courthouse Solar’s application?

Susan Seward of Advantus Strategies LLC, currently chair of the Sussex County Board of Supervisors, advised against converting prime agricultural or forest lands for solar facilities.  She advocated locating utility scale solar on areas that are “already degraded.” She used the phrase “yucky sites” several times to emphasize this point.

Laura Wilson of Dominion Energy listed the criteria for an “ideal” utility scale solar site.  “Good road and highway access” are essential. Other criteria are proximity to a transmission line, slope no more than 6%, minimal impact upon sensitive areas such as wetlands and 8-9 usable acres per megawatt. 

Given these guidelines, the site proposed for the Courthouse Solar seems odd.  The 1,300 plus acres include high quality forest, straddle massive wetlands along Roanoke Creek and lack good access to Route 40.

Ridgeway Farm LLC and Blue Rock Resources LLC and solar developer Novi Energy propose Shady Oaks Road, a narrow dead-end street that serves 18 residences, for construction access from Route 40.

Construction for utility scale solar can last up to two years. Hundreds of thousands of solar panels, metal support posts and miles of chain link fence must be trucked in as well as heavy equipment needed to clear and grade the site.

Shady Oaks enters Route 40 close to its intersection with Union Cemetery Road. To the east are multiple driveways and on the west a major curve, downhill incline and more driveways.

Planning Commission documents did not flag the lack of direct highway access. Lynn and Janet Royster, who own the Shady Oaks development, first learned of Courthouse Solar plans from a newspaper article. They raised traffic safety concerns at the September meeting.

Last minute “fixes” proposed by Novi Energy attorneys in October, i.e. reduced speed, a flagman, and eliminating Saturday deliveries, do not solve the problem.  Construction traffic will roll through Shady Oaks from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. five days a week except during school bus pick up and drop off. It will disrupt a quiet neighborhood and jeopardize the safety of its residents.

Courthouse Solar west of Roanoke Creek lacks good highway access. It is an applicant’s responsibility to select a site that meets this basic requirement.

Let’s hope Ridgeway Farm LLC, Blue Rock Resources and Novi Energy withdraw the application for the portion of Courthouse Solar located west of Roanoke Creek.

Charlotte County has already approved Twitty’s Creek Solar, Moody Creek Solar, and Red House Solar. An application for Randolph Solar is expected. Negotiations are underway between solar developers and additional property owners for more sites.

Charlotte County faces no shortage of solar applicants.  Of course, we welcome the income from utility scale solar. The pros and cons for any proposed site should be carefully researched and reviewed with sufficient time for public comment.  Sometimes the right decision will be “No.”

Pamela Kent Pettus