Buckingham supervisors approve latest solar project after hearing

Published 2:17 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Buckingham County has one newly approved solar project, as supervisors signed off on the plan during their Tuesday, Nov. 14 meeting. But as the conversation went on, some residents just wanted to make sure their opinions were known on the subject. 

Blue Rock Solar LLC applied to obtain a Special Use Permit to construct and operate a solar facility to produce up to 100 MW utility-scale solar facility on approximately 1,127 acres in Buckingham County. The parcels are located near the intersection of State Route 683 Mohele Road and State Route 636 Stage Coach Road, Curdsville Magisterial District. 

Before the hearing, Joshua McNeely, the representative from Blue Rock, gave a quick review of the plans for this project. As borders and impact are one of the main concerns with residents, McNeely reported that the actual solar project area will be closer to 686 acres in the fence with 475 under panels.

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“The way we view this project is real rural economic development,” said McNeeley. “The project as it sits now will generate an additional $9.6 million dollars in local tax revenue that comes to the county over the life of the project.”

For the project, McNeely mentioned additional aspects that he believes will not impact the residents negatively. These include accelerated payments to the county, reimbursements for county costs, safety training, decommission bond and repairing any road damage from the project. The plot will also have natural buffers to shield any visibility from Stage Cache Road. 

Solar project draws public comment 

During the public comment period, eight individuals signed up to speak. Starting off was Jenny Bobco and then her brother-in-law, Dan Pemble, who spoke on her behalf at the previous meeting. They both raised concerns about how close the facility will be to her property and the effects it will have on the property value. Bobco’s concern was also for the wildlife and whether this facility will contaminate the water.

“This is all going on and I hear we get nothing out of this,” said Bobco. “I hear it’s all Dominion Power that’s getting from that and I’m from Southside Electric.” 

Other residents echoed these concerns along with asking where this money is going and warning about taking away farmland. Some encouraged the board to pause this discussion until the county approves a solar policy.

There were three residents who supported the facility. One of them was Mike Morris of District 3 who spoke in support believing that it is important to keep evolving with the times. 

“I would say modern society and our culture not only developed because of new energy sources but I would argue that the survival of our society depends on new innovative sources of energy,” said Morris. “I believe that the answer to eventually supply enough energy for our society will require the development of a variety of sources.”

Supervisors take a vote

After the hearing, Supervisor Don Matthews motioned to approve the special use permit. Supervisor Jordan Miles seconded the motion. Supervisor and Vice Chair Dennis Davis stated that he would like to see there be a zoning ordinance in place before approving or voting on any more solar facilities. The motion was approved 5-1 with Davis opposed and Chairman Joe Chambers absent.  

“I think this is going to be a good project for the county,” said Miles. “Let’s not hide from it, we’re facing a tax increase next year perhaps on the land owners and I think when we have opportunities of things of an industry that wants to come into the county, I think it’s an opportunity that we need to strike on and take advantage of.”

The board also voted to hold a public hearing in their December meeting for the siting agreement between Blue Rock Solar LLC and Buckingham County.