The future is bright for start-up solar energy facilities in Halifax County.
The county has six approved solar site applications and one application is pending. The town of South Boston also is exploring the possibility of amending its zoning ordinance to allow solar facilities in the town limits.
“I believe the future is promising for solar in our locality. A lot of interest for solar has attracted to our county because the topography of our land being flat and the abundance of agricultural land,” said Detrick Easley, zoning administrator/code compliance officer for Halifax County.
None of the approved solar sites have operable facilities yet, but the county zoning administrator anticipates that two will begin construction on a facility soon.
“We still do not have any facility in operation. We have two sites — the Water Strider Site and the Crystal Hill Site — that are close to pulling building permits to begin construction,” Easley said.
The Department of Environmental Quality stormwater must review a solar facility site before the county can issue a building permit, Easley explained. After the county’s issuance of building permits, the solar sites will have the green light to start construction on facilities.
The Crystal Hill Site was the county’s first approved solar site application. The Halifax County Board of Supervisors approved that site application in January 2018. The 65-megawatt site in the Crystal Hill community has a solar project area of 300 aces and a total site area of 629 acres.
The Water Strider Site, one of the county’s largest solar site applications, is located in the northwestern part of the county, just south of Brookneal. The 80-megawatt site encompasses 900 acres of solar project area and has a total site area of 1,042 acres.
While two solar sites in the county are in the pre-construction phase, the town of South Boston is looking into the possibility of allowing solar facilities in its town limits. The South Boston Town Council in its 7 p.m. Monday meeting will consider a resolution initiating a proposed text amendment to the town zoning ordinance to allow solar energy facilities by special use permit in rural residential agricultural districts.
“We’re looking at the possibility of allowing solar facilities in town,” said town manager Tom Raab. He said the resolution on the town council agenda is meant to “get the ball rolling” on the process of allowing the construction of a 95-acre solar facility in an agricultural area of town.
The county in the meantime approved another solar site application — Piney Creek — on April 6. The 80-megawatt Piney Creek Site has a solar project area of 502 acres and a total site area of 778.51 acres. The site is in the eastern part of the county.
The county’s board of supervisors also approved at their April 6 meeting an amendment to the Alton Post Office Solar Site application.
The change increased the total acreage of the site from 803 to 1,109.34 but did not change the 80 megawatts that was previously approved.
Rogers Bowers with Alton Post Office Solar had stated in his request, “We were unable to build the facility on the acreage that’s already approved to the existing permitted capacity. The additional area will allow us to have room for panels to generate enough electricity to efficiently use that approved infrastructure and be able to achieve the full investment on this project as originally contemplated.”
ED-4 supervisor Ronnie Duffey specifically asked if the additional acreage would increase tax revenue. County administrator Scott Simpson responded that it would increase tax revenue “in a sense,” but if the board of supervisors did not approve the change, then the solar facility might not be able to move forward with the project, negating all possibilities for tax revenue from the facility.
The board unanimously approved not only the proposed change in acreage to the facility but also a voluntary waiver and payment agreement with Alton Post Office Solar, LLC that Simpson said allows them to waive a portion of their tax exemption and enter into a payment agreement with the county.
With this agreement, the company is expected to pay the county $1,122,971.04 over 35 years, and the total expected tax revenue is $2,048,381.61.
Another solar site application, in the South Boston area, is pending. The proposed 20-megawatt Sun Tribe Solar facility on Bill Tuck Highway, near the Seven Oaks subdivision, would encompass 138 acres of solar project area and have a total site area of 244 acres. The Halifax County Planning Commission is expected to hold a public hearing on the solar site application at its May 19 meeting, and the board of supervisors is slated consider the application at its June meeting.
Other solar site applications that have been approved in Halifax County are spread out in various parts of the county. The Sunnybrook Site application, located in the Scottsburg area, encompasses 245.8 acres of solar project area and has a total site area of 337 acres.
The 70-megawatt Powells Creek Solar Site application, also located in the southern part of Halifax County, has 544 acres of solar project area and has a total site area of 610 acres.
The county’s largest solar site application, the 83-megawatt Foxhound Solar Site in eastern Halifax County, has 502 acres of solar project area and 1,141.5 acres of total site area.