Moonlight Solar on supervisors’ June 13 agenda

Published 4:51 pm Monday, June 10, 2024

Only one of two proposed solar farms opposed by Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission will be on the county supervisors’ June 13 agenda.

A 44-megawatt solar farm proposed for Burwells Bay and Moonlight roads, dubbed Moonlight Solar, is listed on the agenda under old business, indicating a possible vote on Jacksonville-based Palladium Energy’s application for a conditional use permit that seeks to withdraw approximately 523 acres from agricultural use for the project.

This will be the second time Moonlight is presented to supervisors for a potential vote. The board in March sent Moonlight back to the Planning Commission after Palladium proposed a slate of changes.

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The commissioners, for the second time in six months, voted unanimously on May 28 to recommend the application’s denial. The commissioners had voted at the same meeting to recommend denial of Arlington-based AES Corp.’s application for a larger, 240-megawatt solar farm dubbed Sycamore Cross, which would span more than 2,400 acres across the westernmost edge of the Isle of Wight-Surry county line, 5 miles from Moonlight and adjacent to the 2021-approved, 1,750-acre Cavalier solar farm that already straddles the border.

According to Isle of Wight County Community Development Director Amy Ring, AES has requested that Sycamore Cross not go to the supervisors until July.

Moonlight’s listing under old business, rather than the evening’s scheduled public hearings, indicates the supervisors plan not to solicit further commentary on the matter before voting. A March 21 public hearing on Moonlight’s original proposal had drawn five speakers, three in support and two opposed. A May 28 Planning Commission on Moonlight’s revised proposal drew 10 speakers, all but two in opposition.

The supervisors’ bylaws specify public comments are not accepted on any matter that has already been the subject of a public hearing but has yet to be voted upon.

Palladium has proposed to reduce from 36 acres to 8.9 the impact to “ecological cores,” or wildlife habitats of “high importance,” by using larger solar panels spread over a smaller footprint to reduce the fenced acreage while maintaining the same generating capacity. Of the 523-acre project site, 231 acres of 44% would be fenced and host panels, down from 250 originally. The project now proposes to take 242 acres of prime farmland out of agricultural use, down from the original 274.  The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, however, contends it still has concerns over the company’s plans to use Burwells Bay and Moonlight roads for site access, contending they’re both too narrow for larger vehicles like school buses to pass trucks hauling solar panels.