LOUISA COUNTY AMENDMENTS TO REGULATIONS FOR SOLAR GENERATION FACILITIES
LOUISA, VIRGINIA – The Louisa County Board of Supervisors approved amendments to Chapter 86 of the Louisa County Development Regulations for Solar Generation Facilities following a Public Hearing on Monday, August 1, 2022. These amendments were designed to preserve and protect the rural nature of the County and its agricultural and forestal lands.
Like other Virginia counties, Louisa is closely evaluating current and future solar projects and positioning regulation to best serve the community. “Solar has been challenging for localities across the state,” said Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes. “We recognize the need for safe, reliable sources of energy, and we must balance that need with reasonable requirements that protect our citizens and the land.”
Louisa County officials expect a continued high number of applicants as electric service providers further respond to the Virginia Clean Economy Act signed into law in 2020. “Louisa County is uniquely located to be conducive to solar projects,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Duane Adams. “We’re a rural county. We have lots of transmission lines that run through the county. We have lots of agricultural land and we have seen quite a number of projects come forward.”
Among the most discussed of the proposed amendments at Monday’s Public Hearing were a 151-megawatt project minimum; a restriction on the total amount of County acreage approved for utility scale solar generation facilities; and an increase of the vegetative buffer requirement. Recognizing citizen concern about a megawatt minimum being too restrictive and limiting smaller solar projects, the Board of Supervisors removed the proposed 151-megawatt requirement. The Board approved a provision limiting the combined total land area of utility-scale solar generation to less than 3 percent of total County acreage (9,800 acres). The vegetative buffer requirement was increased from 150 feet to 300 feet. A primary purpose of a vegetative buffer is to obscure a project’s visibility from the surrounding area, and the Board acknowledged project size, elevation and other factors could impact project-specific requirements.
The Board also highlighted a waiver process that could allow requirement adjustments on a project-specific basis. For example, viewshed analysis and other considerations could enable the Board to consider buffer tweaks. Overall, the legislation includes modest flexibility while maintaining responsible control.
These amendments were ultimately produced through the work of the Louisa County Solar Committee, public input and technical data. “We’ve gained experience through existing projects, communication with other localities, and our team’s knowledge,” Chairman Adams remarked. “This legislation maintains our open stance on solar generation, better protects citizen and environmental interests, and furthers our goal of maintaining the rural nature of the County.”
To view the amended ordinance in its entirety and to learn more about solar projects in Louisa County, please visit https://www.louisacounty.com/2604/Solar-Projects.
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