I am responding to the column in the Aug. 11 Culpeper Star-Exponent by D. Johnston, “A bright idea for stopping solar farm growth.”
While meant to be satirical, the issue and its implications are quite serious for Culpeper. Culpeper County’s “Utility Scale Solar Facility Development Policy” currently allows for solar developers to apply for a conditional use permit in A-1 (Agricultural) and RA (Rural Area) zoning districts. The two pending solar power plants (Greenwood and Cricket Solar) in Culpeper now encompass 2,589 acres in the Stevensburg district and include prime farmland, timberland, pastureland and parcels near the river and historical battlefield sites. These industrial-size power plants are not appropriate for agricultural-zoned land.
The Cricket Solar project (1,589 acres) being proposed in the Raccoon Ford neighborhood would:
- Threaten historical sites, which brings in tourism dollars;
- Threaten the environment with the clear-cutting of large acres of trees, soil contamination, erosion, storm water runoff and ground water contamination;
- Threaten agricultural production by taking prime farmland out of use; and
- Threaten resident property values.
The appropriate place for solar is on rooftops, on marginal or contaminated land sites, industrial-zoned land, or in areas without large populations. Culpeper County should look at the recent example of Madison County which studied the issue over 18 months and just voted unanimously to restrict large-scale solar projects to industrial-zoned land.
It is true that solar has been around for many decades. But despite trillions of dollars dedicated towards research, development and subsidies, solar only produces 1.3 percent of the planet’s electricity as reported by Forbes in 2018. Solar is not going to save the planet.
Germany used to be held up as the model for renewables, but after deploying the most solar and wind facilities in the world, their electricity is the 2nd most expensive in Europe.
If there is a place in Virginia for solar, we need our elected officials to carefully study and understand the long-term implications of these large-scale projects, and balance the desire for potential growth while protecting the environment and landowners.
Susan Ralston, president
Citizens for Responsible Solar