Strata Solar’s 150 MW Maroon Solar Facility, proposed for construction in Culpeper County, Virginia, was unanimously denied by the County Board of Supervisors following a public comment period.
The county, which is southwest of Washington, D.C., currently has a land-use policy regarding solar projects, which provides guidelines that are not codified into law as they would be in an ordinance. It previously shot down an attempt to create a new zoning district within the county for solar projects.
Of the 30 people who spoke about the proposed plant, 23 opposed it. Some claimed that the project would ruin the rural nature of the area, the environment, and historic resources. The county is the site of the Civil War’s Brandy Station battle. Others voiced concerns regarding construction traffic during the three-year development and construction period, as well as noise from blasting on site. Strata said that construction would take just one year.
According to local press reports, one resident argued against utility-scale solar in the county at large, referring to it as “a redundant, unnecessary technology to start with—a technology that is already antiquated.”
The county board had previously recommended denying the solar proposal on two separate occasions. Following the most recent action in March, Strata Solar doubled the siting agreement to the county to $2 million. A spokesperson also asserted that the project would generate $14 million for the county through revenue-sharing and create 400 construction jobs.
Culpeper County is reviewing a draft solar ordinance that would allow for the future development of utility scale projects. The draft includes a laundry list of project provisions, including:
- That developers receive a conditional use permit to construct solar projects, which is currently the case.
- Solar panels could cover 50% of lots on which they are constructed.
- That solar panels be 150 feet away from streets, a guideline in the county’s current policy.
- That solar farms be 200 feet away from land zoned as residential, rural area or agricultural.
- Decommissioning requirements mandating the removal of all surface and subsurface features.
- A required decommissioning surety that is acceptable to the county before building permits are issued.
- That decommissioning cost estimates be conducted every three years.
- That a viewshed, historic impact, natural resource inventory, and floodplain analysis be considered during the conditional use permit application process.
Had the project been approved, Strata states that it would have started construction in late 2021 and been completed in a year later.
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