Workshop held on solar facilities

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Members of the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors held a meeting Nov. 1 to discuss potentially amending the county’s code for solar facilities, amending the solid waste plan for the county and other items.

According to the workshop meeting agenda, items under discussion included maintenance questions from Bryan Saxtan, amending the solid waste plan, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC) tax rebate, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) property at Salem Church Road, workforce development, budget and CIP calendars and discussion  of goals and priorities from Dr. Martha Walker with the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

County Administrator Vivian Seay Giles said no action was taken during the workshop on any topic other than the approval of the agenda and adjournment of the meeting to Nov. 13.

Vivian Seay Giles

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The Board of Supervisors voted during its September meeting to table a request for a zoning ordinance that provides guidelines in the event the county considers installing solar facilities in the county.

The Cumberland County Planning Commission in August approved to recommend a zoning ordinance to the board of supervisors.

Rex Young, an in-house attorney for Cooperative Solar, LLC, based in Durham, North Carolina said in a phone interview from a previous Herald report that the company is in the process of applying for a conditional use permit to build a two-megawatt solar facility in Cumberland.

Young said the facility would act as a community solar facility program, meaning that residents or industrial company could potentially sign up to be powered through the solar facility.

“You flip the light switch on and you really don’t know where that’s coming from,” Young said. “This is one way that we’re trying to help, the utility is trying to help change that and make it a little more available.”

Young said a two-megawatt facility could span between 15-20 acres.

Young said the company approached Cumberland about potentially installing the facility, but said the county did not have an ordinance for solar facilities.

Planning and Zoning Director J.P. Duncan said during the August meeting that some of the conditions and research he used for the draft ordinance came from nearby Buckingham County’s ordinance for solar facilities.

Buckingham is in the process of installing a solar farm, Buckingham I Solar Facility from Dominion Energy. The solar farm is expected to have approximately 66,000 solar panels and produce 20-megawatts that will be acquired by Amazon’s cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The Cumberland draft solar facility ordinance includes 22 conditions. Conditions include that solar facilities that are dedicated solely producing electricity for another facility located on the site would not be subject to the conditional use permit requirements; that a site plan is required; that all solar equipment must have a UL Listing or an equivalent to determine it meets all standards; that any distribution lines be installed underground; that an erosion and sediment control plan be installed and reviewed by a third-party source, signed off by the Peter Francisco Soil & Water Conservation District and enforced by the county before any land disturbance, and then that the facility contain a vegetative buffer.

Amending the solar facility code is expected to be a topic of discussion during a future board meeting, Giles said.

Nov. 13 is the date of the November Board of Supervisors meeting, which is set to be held at the Cumberland Courthouse at 7 p.m.