Saga of the solar farm fiasco


Dear Editor:

I will begin by saying that I know enough about solar energy to know that I don’t know much. So, I will address what I do know.

I know that it appears that the vast majority of our fellow citizens are opposed to solar farm installations in the county. I know that outside influencers are here to convince us otherwise because they stand to handsomely profit from the venture, along with a miniscule number of landowners. I do know that the vast majority of citizens of Page County will not financially benefit from this whatsoever.

On the other hand, from a government viewpoint, there are possible favorable revenue sources and/or tax credits. As such, will the citizens’ personal property taxes be reduced to offset and share in these savings?

I also know that the energy produced from mid- to large-scale solar farms in Page County will be sold to major global corporations such as Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, etc. I know that about 70 percent of solar panels are made in China and the massive scale factories that make them use slave labor, predominantly the minority Uighur ethnic population.

I now shift to the Board of Supervisors video taped meeting of Feb. 2 and share my opinion of what I walked away with. My opinion is just that, my opinion, so I urge everyone to view it themselves and formulate their own opinions. (Video may be found here.)

After watching it twice, here’s a summary of what I witnessed. Chairman Phenix would not allow discussion of any possible conflicts of interests or complaints or criticisms voiced be fellow citizens. Considerable time was consumed discussing the parameters of what is considered small, medium and large (utility) size solar farms. There were four different versions of the proposed ordinance; one from the Planning Commission, one from Urban Grid legal counsel, one that was amended, and one that was titled a draft. (Why or how Urban Grid submitted a proposed ordinance to the Board is unusual, that’s like having a fox submit an ordinance for a chicken coop.)

Of these four versions, three of them had different permissible solar farm acreage sizes; one for 200, 400, and 450. Chairman Phenix became fixated on this point and finally commented that he would not vote until “we have the possibility of a larger scale.” He said 200 acres is not enough and that we need to think of a world scale size around 2,500 acres and that along the I-81 corridor in Augusta County would be perfect.

He then asked if anyone else saw the PBS documentary about the melting of the Polar Cap. He continued that “this is more than just us, it’s concern for the world.” Finally, he concluded with “it’s too late to contribute to the the future of this world now anyway.” To me, this was a bit spooky. I though the Board’s mission was to make a decision on a Page County solar farm ordinance, not to be a catalyst for saving the planet from a global catastrophe.

Chairman Phenix also mentioned several times that he thought the “narrative” section of the planning commission’s draft was genius. Personally, from a business perspective, I would simply change the term to “vetting” which more precisely defines that process the Chairman was referring to and is a common practice used in commercial business purchasing and contracting.

I do have a concern regarding the setback requirement of 200 feet from the Shenandoah River, as mentioned in the Board meeting video. Considering the back-to-back, 100-year floods of 1985 and 1996, both of which crested at about 27 feet, the actual distance from the river to the receding point on my property was over 100 yards. Any solar panels within the flood plain will be taken out by rushing water and massive size logs and trees and any surviving panels will be completely covered with mud and silt. I did not see a specific setback identified in the Planning Commission’s “Draft Solar Ordinance Document” concerning this point.

Kenneth Chumley ~ Luray, Va.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for your letter! I just moved here and have a lot to catch up on!

    What does the last paragraph mean? I thought you were saying that solar panels cannot be closer than 200 feet to the River. But then you mention that flooding comes up around 100 feet and that would be a problem if panels were 200 feet away.

    Obviously, I am not understanding your last paragraph.

    Will you please clarify what you were communicating so that I can understand it?

    Thank you so much!

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