What does the new Buckingham County solar policy look like?

Published 10:23 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

After months of discussion, the Buckingham Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt their solar policy. Now that it’s here, what does that mean?

This policy came from the solar committee that was put together to address the concerns many residents have when it comes to solar facilities coming to the county. This policy sets a standard set of guidelines that every applicant who comes to the county to build solar has to follow. 

Now that it’s approved, all applicants pursuing a special use permit for a solar facility will have to meet these guidelines starting at the first of the year. These guidelines will also apply to projects currently inactive or suspended. 

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“We’re hoping that the ones that we approved will adhere to the policy but this starts January 1,” said Supervisor Dennis Davis. 

Breaking down the solar policy 

According to the policy, the purpose is to provide guidance for the siting, development, operations and decommissioning of solar energy facilities in the county that require a special use permit. The policy is 32 pages long and covers a lot of ground. 

To start, the policy states the limitations to how many solar projects can come in the county. The county now has a limit of 1600 megawatts or 7500 acres of project size, whichever comes first. There will also be allowed 100 megawatts of small solar projects of 5 megawatts or less.

“There was a lot of reading and we had to go through and come up with a policy and come back and get the citizen’s input and other input and get them all into the policy so it’s a pretty hefty policy,” said County Administrator Karl Carter.

The rest of the solar policy dives deeper into what solar facilities are and how they should be maintained. The policy lays out the definitions for the different aspects of the project including a solar facility, applicant, solar equipment and project area with more to come as needed. It then lays out the application phase, site plans and what traffic management and construction management should include. 

The policy also covers many of the points that residents have brought up during public comment periods and public hearings. It covers landscaping, buffers, fencing, lighting, vegetation management and erosion control. It also lays out insurance requirements, emergency management and decommissioning. 

“We commend the committee for doing a great job,” said Chairman Joe Chambers. “We thank you that we have some teeth in place now to protect our county.”