With Solar Siting, the Devil’s Always In the Details

A story about a proposed solar development in Culpeper County, Virginia shows the complexities that lie ahead for American communities as clean energy grows.

The Washington Post profiled an interesting, and perhaps informative story of a large-scale solar development proposed, but eventually canceled, for Culpeper County, Virginia. interior_transportation_map-width1900height1393

From the Post article – which is worth a full read for the larger context and play-out:

They all valued the land — thousands of rolling acres of agricultural turf in Culpeper County, Va. — but for very different reasons.

Energy company Cricket Solar saw it as a host site for more than 380,000 solar panels that could create a powerful source of renewable energy, as well as construction jobs. The coalition of Culpeper residents and historians dead-set against the installation saw it as precious historic turf, pockmarked with Civil War battlefields and river crossings pivotal in shaping the nation’s destiny, that should be kept pristine.

And for 60-year-old farmer Richard Dugan, one of a half dozen aging Culpeper residents who own a portion of the contested plot, the land was a legacy he hoped to keep in his family by any means necessary — including by leasing it to a solar company he saw as his financial salvation.

The specifics of the Cricket case may be unique, but the overall tension among multiple policy objectives– defending areas of historical and cultural significance; maintaining active agriculture use and character of rural areas; landowners facing economic stresses– will all be part of Maryland’s future. With newly adopted state goals for clean energy in power company portfolios, and a push to go even further – expect this debate to continue in a similar form in Maryland and elsewhere.

See previous Conduit Street coverage of energy siting issues in Maryland.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties