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Solar ordinance approved

The Cumberland County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved an ordinance which creates a revenue sharing program for solar farms in the county.

A similar ordinance is also being considered by Prince Edward County.

During the Tuesday, Sept. 14, board meeting, a public hearing was scheduled for the Board to consider approval of the ordinance.

Cumberland Planning and Zoning Administrator Stephany Johnson explained to supervisors that thanks to new legislation (HB2269), localities are now authorized to adopt ordinances which assess a revenue share of up to $1,400 per megawatt (MW) on solar farms built in the county.

Previously, the county’s only option of drawing revenue from solar facilities was to assess a machinery and tools tax or business/ personal property tax on solar farms. While this would have provided the county with some funds upfront, the revenue would decrease each year as the value of the equipment on the land depreciates.

The program, Johnson highlighted, will provide the county with a steady income of up to $1,400 per MW on solar facilities for the next 30-35 years.

Since the revenue share will be assessed per MW in alternating current (AC) generation capacity as stated in the interconnection agreement between the developer and the utility company, the funds are based on what a solar project is capable of generating, not actual generation production.

The rate can be increased by 10% every five years, meaning the revenue brought in through solar facilities will increase as time goes on.

District 5 Supervisor Robert Saunders made the motion to approve the ordinance. The motion was seconded by District 4 Supervisor Gene Brooks and passed unanimously.

Other localities in the commonwealth have recently adopted similar ordinances in the wake of increased interest in solar farm development in rural Virginia. Buckingham County has scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 12 for its own revenue sharing ordinance for solar farms. The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors recently voted to hold a public hearing at its October meeting regarding the same type of ordinance.

“It seems that it would benefit the county for us to have a long-term revenue stream as opposed to us taking a moderate benefit up front, that way down the road there would be something continuous we could count on in the budget for,” Cumberland Board Chair and District 1 Supervisor Brian Stanley said.