Tomorrow ~ At last, a solar ordinance

solar farm

By Paul Quigg, columnist

Whew, we finally have an industrial solar ordinance. The frustrating years of struggle, the time, the expense, the energy, at last, it’s done.

Personally, I do not believe that industrial solar is compatible with the many special environments that are present in Page County. I have not made an effort to see how feasible industrial solar will be under the new conditions and we will just have to wait and see if we get some new applications. I think the new ordinance conditions will make it pretty difficult to consolidate enough parcels to justify an application.

A special thanks must go out to the many local citizens who contributed so much of their time to complete this work. There are too many to name here, but most of my time was spent working with Beth Snider and Cathy Grech. At times, it must have felt like a full-time job. Beth’s research skills and Cathy’s legal knowledge powered the citizens’ response, which made the final ordinance possible. There is no way they can be adequately recognized for the time and effort they provided. There are others that I did not spend a whole lot of time with who contributed many hours. 

Now we must wait and see what the future holds for industrial solar in Page County. The solar contribution of less than one and one-half percent of our global energy needs is not an encouraging indicator for the future of this complicated source of energy.

Mr. Quigg, a University of Virginia graduate and resident of Luray, has practiced architecture in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1962. As a lifelong environmentalist, in the 70’s he was appalled at the polluted air and water and has dedicated much of his time since in studying and commenting on the environment. He has been published in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. 

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14 Comments

  1. We all owe a huge debt to the current planning commission for drafting a strong ordinance that protects the county and allows judicious placement of industrial solar. And Beth Snider worked tirelessly on this. I believe she has attended every meeting since 2018 and has compiled copious notes about the experiences of other counties that hastily allowed large scale solar on farmland and came to regret it.

      • Thank you.
        I have recently learned a lot about how the most recent Cape project moved forward despite the moratorium. Some charged with protecting the county apparently did not do so and one actually failed completely to answer a question from a supervisor to which they knew the answer, while another answered in a way that seems to have led the supervisors to a wrong assumption, as verified in a private email change between Dr Phoenix and a citizen. The relevant information can be obtained by FOIA. The video of the Dec 15, 2020 BOS meeting, time stamp about 1 hr 18 min, and an email from Ms. Moler to the supervisors of Jan 12, 2021, as well as legal fee invoices from county attorney for Nov. 2020.

  2. The Planning Commission performed a great service to this County. The solar plan is a very thoughtful technical document. It is also a reasoned compromise between the rights of property owners and the hopes of our community to have a great place to live. The Board of Supervisors is also to be congratulated for their careful analysis and votes.

  3. It will be interesting to see if the size limit of 30 acres (this is the area covered by panels, I assume) attracts any developers to apply. Perhaps developers will also find other requirements of the ordinance too onerous. We’ll have to see.

    Someone will probably be able to tell me whether Dogwood will still be able to proceed. It’s a larger project than the ordinance allows.

    • Dogwood is moving forward at this point, however the ordinance applies to all projects for which construction has not started…that covers Dogwood. The supervisors have the option of overriding the ordinance, but based on the risk to area wells that urban grid is not addressing, it would be prudent to say no.

      • I would hope that the Supervisors have this option to override the size restriction only because Dogwood had been previously approved. Otherwise, what’s the point of an ordinance? Dogwood is much larger than 30 acres, the maximum acreage coverage the ordinance allows.

  4. Paul, your estimate of solar’s global contribution is lower than what I see (from 1.1% to 3%). What was your source for the .5%?

  5. Will, For the last two years I have maintained that 1.5% of our US and global energy came from solar. If I wrote otherwise, I apologize. The graph for the June 27th column showed that 12% of US and global energy came from renewables and that 12% of our renewables came from solar. 12% of 12% is 1.44%.

  6. From the US Energy Information Administration:

    https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=92&t=4

    How much of U.S. energy consumption and electricity generation comes from renewable energy sources?
    In 2021, renewable energy sources accounted for about 12.2% of total U.S. energy consumption and about 20.1% of electricity generation.
    Last updated: May 13, 2022, with preliminary data for 2021.

    • Robert, My reply to Will said 12% of US energy came from renewables. This is exactly what you said. I don’t see any disagreement. What was the purpose of your reply?

  7. There has been a certain amount of cold water poured on industrial solar energy during this conversation. I understand the need for careful consideration of the local impacts, but I think the global need to rapidly build solar capacity can’t be ignored. Even though solar cannot now meet peak needs, its ability to replace fossil fuels is enormous.
    Often, the discussion of the negatives of solar lacks context. When a comparison to oil, coal, and gas is kept in mind, solar’s negatives, especially regarding environment, look a lot less significant.

    That was a good recent “60 Minutes” report on how the Bahamas are using solar arrays to improve energy security in this time of more frequent destructive hurricanes. It shows that solar has some practical advantages over fossil fuels.

    • What I can’t understand about Paul and his anti-solar group is their lack of foresight. We need energy to survive as a society. For whatever downsides solar may have, the current fossil fuel system is enormously more worse. It’s literally killing our planet. Even if you argue climate change, just the transportation of fossil fuel energy is deadly. Just recently there’s a 2 MILLION GALLON gasoline leak in the Colonial Pipeline down in NC: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article263684438.html Is a field of solar panels really that bad?

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