Surry supervisors set hearing on solar farm

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Surry County’s Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing March 3 on whether to allow a solar farm to be built across the street from the 17th century Bacon’s Castle homestead.

Pine Gate Renewables, an Asheville, North Carolina-based company, proposes to construct a roughly 20-megawatt solar farm – under the name Surry Solar Center LLC – on a 220-acre tract at Route 10 and Bacon’s Castle Trail.

Surry’s Planning Commission voted in January to recommend against granting the company’s request for a comprehensive plan amendment, rezoning and a conditional use permit – finding the proposed solar farm in conflict with Surry’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan and a 2018 solar ordinance.

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The Comprehensive Plan, which the county’s Board of Supervisors adopted in 2020, states that solar facilities should be screened from routes 10 and 31 and should “not visually impact scenic and cultural resources.” The 2018 solar ordinance requires solar farms to “avoid important historic, archaeological or cultural sites.”

But the Board of Supervisors has the final say over each of the requested approvals.

The proposed solar farm would occupy roughly 196 acres of the rural, agricultural-zoned parcel. It’s projected to bring $800,000 to the county in real estate taxes over its 40-year lifespan, compared to the $164,000 the county currently receives for the land. According to an attorney for Pine Gate who addressed the Planning Commission in January, the solar farm would be set back “more than a football field” from the road, and be partially hidden behind a fence and a landscape buffer.

The Board of Supervisors’ hearing will be held during its regular monthly meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the general district courtroom of the county’s government complex at 45 School Street.