Decision made on controversial solar farm

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2022

After much discussion and resident input, the Buckingham Board of Supervisors came to a decision regarding a controversial solar farm in a special public hearing on Monday, Feb. 28. A public hearing was already held on this case. However, due to claims of failed written notice to the adjacent landowners, citizens filed a lawsuit fighting for the original recommendation to be void.

Following the lawsuit, in the Monday, Feb. 14, Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board voted to have a special joint public hearing on Monday, Feb. 28 with the Planning Commission regarding Case 22-SUP299 Apex Riverstone Solar.

After the Feb. 28 special joint public hearing, the Buckingham Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors voted to approve the application for the special use permit 4 to 3. Supervisors voting for the application included Jordan Miles, Donald Bryan, Don Matthews and Harry Bryant with Dennis Davis, Danny Allen and Joe Chambers voting against.

This solar farm is planned to be located north of Bridgeport Road, east of Route 20 and west of Hardware Road in the Slate River Magisterial District. This request was from Apex Clean Energy Inc. for a special use permit to allow for the construction and operation of a 149.5 MW utility-scale solar facility on approximately 1,996 acres in Buckingham County.

During the five-hour meeting, the Board and Planning Commission listened to residents voice their concerns for this solar farm. Approximately 26 people spoke, 25 sent in voicemails and 60 sent in letters and emails, with an overwhelming majority telling both groups to vote no.

The original public hearing on this case in November 2021 had no participants and the Planning Commission added 30 conditions and passed it to the Board for approval.

Taking public comments into consideration two additional conditions were added to the original 30.

“I’ve listened to the comments of both for and against,” said Supervisor Donald Bryan of District 2. “I do know we’ve got about 51 years of oil left, 114 years of coal and 53 years of gas and fossil fuels will probably be done. Renewable energy is probably the cleanest way to go.”

One of the conditions was in response to the many residents who voiced their concerns about the runoff and erosion that this solar farm will cause due to the site’s elevation. To address this, one of the original 30 conditions stated that erosion would be inspected by a third party within 48 hours of any runoff producing storm event. This was changed to be within 24 hours of an event.

The second condition was suggested by Vice-Chairman Joe N. Chambers Jr. in light of the Town Hall meetings that Apex plans to hold once the project starts to involve residents in the process. Chambers suggested appointing two representatives from District 6 who will check on the project before the meetings to verify what is going on with the project.

“I mean, I represent District 6 and I’m gonna protect the people all I know how,” said Chambers.