New Leaf Solar puts Old Ridge Road project on hold

Published 4:54 am Tuesday, January 9, 2024

No, the Old Ridge Road project from New Leaf Solar will not be discussed by Prince Edward supervisors this week. 

While the requested special-use permit had been voted down by the Prince Edward County Planning Commission in their Thursday, Dec. 19 meeting, it was scheduled to still be considered by supervisors this month. That’s not the case anymore. 

“The applicant has requested their application be put on temporary hold,” said Prince Edward Planning Director Robert Love. “They want time to address some of the concerns raised.” 

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New Leaf Solar’s application was for a three-megawatt solar energy facility, located at 4122 Old Ridge Road. That’s about half a mile from the intersection at Prince Edward Highway or US 460. 

The property in question is 104.1 acres. That includes a proposed 24.3 acres for the solar facility and then the rest serving as a type of landscape buffer. 

Now the concerns Love referred to came in that Dec. 19 meeting, where residents raised several issues. Steve Wall, who lives just up the road from where the site would be, pointed out putting a solar farm there would violate the county’s comprehensive plan, which calls to protect part of that area around 4122 Old Ridge Road from “adverse development”. Anita Harris and her husband are also neighbors of the proposed solar farm. They argued it doesn’t belong around a neighborhood, as this one would be nearby several subdivisions. 

“None of us have anything against clean energy farms, but in the right location,” Harris said at the December meeting. “There is plenty of open, unused land, already cut, available.” 

Other residents pointed out the road already floods and were concerned cutting down timber and vegetation to build a solar farm will only make the problem worse. 

Back to the drawing board 

Those concerns were raised by multiple people for more than an hour during the December hearing, with a number of issues brought up. That includes the impact and potential decrease of property values due to the solar farm, questions about what would happen to panels when they have to be replaced. At least one of the residents claimed the lines drawn on the company’s map were incorrect, arguing that they included part of his property in the project when he hasn’t sold and has no plans to. 

New Leaf officials had said even with the concerns, they picked this spot on Old Ridge Road because it can connect to the Farmville substation. They also pointed out that unlike some other spots, this one wouldn’t need to be rezoned to put in a solar farm. And also, it had a landowner willing to sell. 

Now despite the unanimous vote not to recommend by the planning commission, it was New Leaf’s right to go before supervisors for a public hearing. However, after that Dec. meeting, Love said that New Leaf officials reached out, saying they wanted to try and address the residents’ concerns. As a result, the project is now on hold. 

Up next for New Leaf Solar? 

Well, that’s the big question. There is no timeline for how long it’ll take New Leaf to rework their project or what it would look like afterward. We’ll have to wait and see when they request county staff to remove the temporary hold. After that, any future public hearings would be announced weeks beforehand in The Herald