Surry rejects Bacon’s Castle solar farm

Published 5:16 pm Monday, June 20, 2022

Surry County supervisors on June 16 rejected a proposed solar farm that would have been located across the street from the 17th century Bacon’s Castle homestead.

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

Chairwoman Judy Lyttle, who represents the county’s Bacon’s Castle District, had made a motion to approve the project. But it failed for lack of a second from any other members of the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Timothy Calhoun abstained from taking any action on the matter owing to his employment with Dominion Energy.

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Pine Gate had projected the project would bring $2.6 million in tax revenue to the county over its 40-year lifespan, and had pledged to add a 100-foot buffer of trees at least 8 feet tall to shield the facility from view of the Bacon’s Castle homestead. Despite the buffer and financial incentive, eight of the 10 residents who’d spoken during the supervisors’ March 3 public hearing on the matter had advocated against the project.

The vote, or lack thereof, aligns with reservations Surry’s Planning Commission expressed during its Jan. 24 vote to recommend denial of Pine Gate’s requested comprehensive plan amendment, rezoning and conditional use permit. The planners had deemed the project in conflict with a provision of Surry’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan and an ordinance supervisors adopted in 2018 pertaining to solar farms.

The plan states solar facilities should “not visually impact scenic and cultural resources,” while the ordinance further requires solar farms to “avoid important historic, archaeological or cultural sites.”