Solar farms restricted by Buckingham County supervisors

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023

DILLWYN – Buckingham County will be restricting the number of solar farms allowed, moving forward. During their Monday, Sept. 11 meeting, the Buckingham Board of Supervisors voted to make some changes to the county’s solar policy. This policy will provide guidelines for the siting, development, operations and decommissioning of solar energy facilities in the county. 

Currently, Buckingham has three solar facilities approved and another one being considered, with the current approved total acreage projects at 3,553 acres. These are permitted projects with some currently under construction. The fenced acreage is 1,603, which is the number that would count towards the cap. 

The first solar farms proposal 

The county’s solar committee originally presented a plan calling for a limit of 4,500 acres of fenced area or 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar, whichever occurs first. For the 4,500 acres, this means the land used inside the fenced in project and not the buffers. 

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The committee’s proposal also included defining small facilities or nonutility facilities to be 5 MW or less, raising it from three, and capping the amount of the small facilities in the County to 100 MW. The last change was to change the working under setbacks from residential dwellings to structures to include more than just homes that are near the solar facility sites. 

But the acreage allowed would be increased by supervisors, before a final vote. 

The final version 

Supervisor Jordan Miles III proposed to raise the 4,500 acres of fenced area to 7,500 acres to be the stop or 1,600 MW whichever comes first. He came to this number as 7,468 acres is roughly 2% of the acreage in Buckingham County, providing a decent amount for solar facilities and allowing the 98% to be left alone. He made a motion for this change along with the other changes proposed by the solar committee. 

“This is just me, again, I support solar,” said Miles. “I think that if it’s done right it actually will benefit the County especially with the money that comes in so as not to have to raise taxes.”

Supervisor Don Matthews Jr. seconded Miles’ motion. Supervisor Cameron Gilliam also agreed, stating that this could help offset having to raise taxes.

The motion received some pushback from Supervisor Danny Allen as he mentioned what many residents have told him after these changes were mentioned in last month’s meeting. He told the board that people want the 4,500 acre cap, including the buffer too. 

“And really, we don’t actually know what the fenced in area is,” said Allen. “You can have people say, “I have this much that I wanna use,” but that’s not all the fenced in area.”

Allen also brought up that the county barely sees any money from the facilities under 5 MW and when it comes to the larger ones, the process has taken a long time to see any money come from those. 

Miles’ motion passed, including the 7,500 acres change, with five supervisor voting yes, Allen voting no and Supervisor Dennis Davis absent.