Lack of a solar policy in Buckingham raises confusion

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Buckingham County needs a solar policy before any more facilities get approved. That’s something both residents and the county’s planning commission members agree on. During their Monday, Nov. 27 meeting, commissioners said it’s time to wait, not take action. 

Mountain Pine Arvonia LLC & Mountain Pine Arvonia II LLC with Hodson Energy presented its plan for two 80-megawatt facilities located both north and south of Blinkys Road, State Route 672, where Bear Garden Creek crosses under the road in Marshall Magisterial District. During the public hearing, residents spoke against this coming to the county. Like previous solar public hearings, residents asked for plans for future solar facilities to hold off until the board of supervisors approved the draft solar policy. This time commissioners agreed. 

The board of supervisors created a solar committee to set standards for when these facilities request to come to the county. Currently, the planning commission hasn’t received an official draft to know what conditions to look for or set in a solar plan before sending it on to the board. 

Email newsletter signup

“We have a solar committee (and) that committee has put out recommendations,” said  Commissioner Pete Kapuscinski. “They have not yet been approved, but my view is that if the county didn’t want to change those conditions they wouldn’t have a solar committee looking at them.”

Looking at the Hodson Energy plan that was before the commission, he noted that the conditions asked in these projects are less restrictive than the ones in the draft. Even though Hodson Energy was more than willing to follow these restrictions, it was starting to create confusion as nothing in the draft is codified yet. 

A solar policy for everyone

Kyle West of Hudson Energy stated that they are not opposed to waiting for this draft to be codified before moving forward as they weren’t aware of this draft and what is expected for this facility from the county. He didn’t mind following the rules set for everyone, but he didn’t want their project to jump through hoops that the next one may not have to. 

“Well I don’t feel comfortable voting,” said Commissioner Steven Dorrier. “The board of supervisors wanted the policy. They have two supervisors and a lot of people on this committee and now they didn’t do anything. But, we need to get something back from them before we can pass anything.”

This brought up the question of how long to wait for the board to pass this policy. Kapuscinski noted that he wanted to hold off on previous solar facilities but was told they could afford to wait as there wasn’t a timeline of when the draft would finish. 

Supervisor Dennis Davis was at the meeting and came forward to give the planning commission an update on where the board and the solar committee stood on this policy. The committee worked on the policy in November and, from his understanding, the draft was to be voted on in the board’s December meeting. As long as the draft comes before the board, a decision will be made one way or the other. 

“So, why can’t we wait until the board passes the solar policy so we all can look at it?” said Davis. “Then every solar project from now on will have to extend to those terms that’s in the policy… We just had an opportunity to work on it so give us the opportunity to finish it.”

What happens now?

The planning commission voted to table the project until their mid-December meeting to see where the board ends up with the policy. After that, the next planning commission meeting in December will have another public hearing for this facility and revisit whether or not to move forward or keep waiting depending on what happens at the next board meeting.