Some Halifax solar projects receive stormy receptions

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Halifax County Supervisor J.T. Davis (left) and Interim County
Administrator William Sleeper. Photo by Steven Mantilla

J.T. Davis is concerned about the rapid increase in the number of solar energy projects being proposed in Halifax County. 

“There is always the fear of the unknown and unintended consequences. Where do we pump the brakes? Where do we draw a line in the sand?” says Davis, a member of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and chairman of its finance committee. 

The most recent project approved by the county is Foxhound Solar LLC, a 91-megawatt solar farm in the county’s Clover area. It will have solar panels covering 589 acres of a 1,479-acre tract.

Halifax’s abundant sunlight and the number of transmission grids and substations throughout the county make it an attractive location for solar projects. The county has approved six solar energy projects this year, and at least four more are pending.

Tax incentives also are a major draw for solar energy companies. Solar projects of 20 megawatts or more, for example, receive an 80 percent tax abatement from the state, plus federal incentives.

Solar projects also generate income for the county. The proposed 80-megawatt Water Strider project on 900 acres of land is expected to yield $175,000 in annual real estate and personal property taxes. 

Even though solar farms have an upside, they come with controversy. Three lawsuits filed on behalf of Halifax landowners — one against the Urban Grid project and the board of supervisors and the other two against the Water Strider project and the board. “The major complaint is that the projects will devalue their land,” Davis says.

The county’s solar project ordinance is the most stringent in the state, says Davis. “We have setbacks, rigorous screening requirements, the creation of a pollinator habitat and decommissioning costs if the project is not renewed.”

The supervisors recently changed the ordinance with regard to how many projects can exist in a 5-mile radius.

Matt Kearns, chief development officer for Boston-based Longroad Energy Partners, which is working on the Foxhound project, says the company is fine with the county’s requirements.

“The county has very strong standards for solar projects, and we were willing to meet those,” he says. “We try to be good neighbors.”

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