What is High Bridge Solar? Farmville project advances to council

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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There is no reference about solar in the Town of Farmville’s comprehensive plan. The same goes for the town’s zoning ordinance. Both of those can create some challenges as more solar projects pop up around the area. Specifically, that’s something the planning commission has found itself dealing with, when deciding if they should recommend projects like High Bridge Solar.

“The Town of Farmville’s zoning ordinance does not establish specific standards for solar energy facilities,” Farmville Director of Community Development Ashley Atkins-Austin told the planning commission during their April meeting. As a result, the staff has been using Prince Edward County’s code requirements as a reference instead.

Currently, the focus is on High Bridge Solar LLC, a proposed 12-megawatt facility that will come before town council members in the next few months. The solar project received majority approval from the planning commission in that April meeting. But there is one question. We’ll get to that in a minute.

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The project, which went before the planning commission in April, sits on a 131-acre site at 521 Cedar Avenue, northeast of its intersection with East Second Street in Farmville. It’s right around the edge of town, with the northern property line along the Appomattox River. And in case you’re wondering, it’s more than half a mile away from South Main Street. Out of that 131 acres, 79 would be used for the actual solar operation. As for the land it’s sitting on, it’s zoned R-3, that’s high-density neighborhood. But there’s not exactly a metropolis surrounding it. In fact, if the project gets approved, pretty much the only neighbors those solar panels have would be trees, as the surrounding area is mostly forest.

High Bridge Solar raises question

High Bridge is what’s known as a ‘project LLC’, owned by North Carolina Renewable Energy. That company is itself an affiliate of Inovateus Solar. And the company is very clear that they want to be good neighbors, saying in the April planning commission meeting they tried to hold a public meeting in March, but nobody came.

They’ve also worked to address any potential concerns in their application. Their plan looks at ways of mitigating any water or construction concerns. But therein lies the question, as mentioned earlier. The application says “Inovateus Solar designed the project and crafted this application to be consistent with the zoning ordinance.” However, we’ll refer you back to the first part of this story, as the town’s zoning ordinance doesn’t offer specific guidelines about solar.

As mentioned, the planning commission did feel like it was the best use of the property. The majority of the planning commission was satisfied with the application, enough to send it on to the town council.