Planning Commission OKs IW-Surry solar farm

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission voted 7-3 March 23 to give its approval for a planned 240-megawatt solar farm that, when completed, will span 1,750 acres across Isle of Wight and Surry counties.

Roughly 360 acres will be on Isle of Wight’s side of the county border, located on six parcels along Burwells Bay Road, Jones Drive, Mill Swamp Road and Pons Road.

The developer, Cavalier Solar, is a subsidiary of sPower, a utility-scale wind and solar company headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, with branch offices in Virginia and California. The company had applied for a conditional use permit, as the parcels are currently zoned for rural agricultural conservation. The application includes a request from the owners of the six parcels to withdraw their properties from the Moonlight Agricultural/Forestal District.

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Agricultural and forestal districts are voluntary creations of county governments, which allow landowners special land use rates when their properties are assessed for real estate taxes in exchange for a pledge to keep their land in agriculture, forestry or open space use for the duration of the district’s term, usually 10 years.

Per the terms the Planning Commission voted to include as conditions of their approval, the solar farm will be surrounded by a fence and a 75-foot vegetative buffer. Construction will also be limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays.

The dissenting votes on the matter came from Planning Commission Chairman Brian Carroll and commissioners Jennifer Boykin George Rawls.

The matter will head to the county’s Board of Supervisors April 15. If the Board also gives its approval, Cavalier will become Isle of Wight’s fifth approved solar farm, though only one — on Longview Drive near the county’s border with Suffolk — is currently operational. Of the other three, one is to be located less than a mile south of the county courthouse complex, another just outside the town limits of Windsor and the third, near the International Paper mill on the county’s southern end.