For a number of years now, local citizens have urged our representatives at the local, state and federal levels to develop policies on climate change and the related issues of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The city of Harrisonburg has been relatively receptive; for example, it formed the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee. A key issue for the city is whether its municipal electric company, HEC, will transform itself to be part of the renewable energy future. The city School Board took a big step forward in building its new elementary school to a high level of energy efficiency, but then it missed a golden opportunity to outfit the new school and others with solar energy.

At the state level, Sen. Mark Obenshain has taken the position that nothing can be done as to climate change at the state level, and that it will be decades before solar energy is practical. At the federal level Rep. Goodlatte and his successor, Ben Cline, believe that action taken on climate change, “if it exists,” would unduly damage the economy.

Meanwhile, Rockingham County, skeptical that policies related the climate change have anything to do with county governance, has been confronted sooner than they ever imagined with climate related issues, such as unprecedented stormwater management challenges, the need for a solar system ordinance, and at least one application for the installation of utility scale solar system (solar farm).

The county denied the application of the solar farm ostensibly on the grounds that it would not be the best use of agricultural land, which presumably means the use is not consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. If the county had a climate change policy, it would weigh the impact on agriculture against the value of providing renewable energy to the electric grid.

What is Rockingham County’s obligation with respect to climate? For starters, you could say that Rockingham has an obligation to produce enough renewable energy to meet its own energy needs. The state of Virginia has a population of 8,500,000 which consumes 111 billion kWh of electric energy per year. Rockingham County has a population of 85,000, which suggests it consumes about 1.11 billion kWh. If you do the math, the amount of acreage required of utility scale solar to provide all of Rockingham’s electric energy would be in the order of 5,000 acres. The county Board of Supervisors could say that it is reasonable for Rockingham to allow as much as 5,000 acres to be consumed by solar farms. Rockingham has a total area of 545,000 acres, of which 222,000 is agricultural land, so the 5,000 acres of solar would represent only 1 percent of the land in the county, or 2 percent of the agricultural land.

Provisions in the comprehensive plan that reflect this kind of obligation would allow the county to grant applications for solar farms without the fear of threatening agriculture, while at the same time doing its part to fight climate change.

H. Bishop Dansby lives in Keezletown.

(11) comments


Must be that time of the month again...….another soapbox diatribe about everybody wanting to judge ideas and projects on their merit....instead of through a Climate Alarmist's glasses.

I loved the one sentence about not needing the farmland and instead providing enough energy to be "self sufficient". What was it the elite said....."let them eat electricity" !!


Although I could have said it better, my feeling is that the board of supervisors feared they would be hit again and again by landowners wanting to lease out to solar, and they had no valid criteria on where to stop it, or even to grant it. I laid out a starter rationale that it was reasonable to provide as much as the county consumed (and perhaps no more), recognizing there are many factors to consider. For example, a rural county could reasonably be asked to provide more solar than they use themselves since urban areas do not have the open space. On the other hand, a county like Rockingham is hilly, intensely agricultural and not necessarily ideal for solar, so perhaps we have a lower obligation to supply the cities.


Whaler is just grumpy. Why, you ask? Simple:

The lowly Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-2.

The mighty Buffalo Bills are 2-0.


Lol, Wheels. I thought that would probably come up this week.

Oh, and congratulations. That’s probably the first time in 30 years, that “mighty” and “Buffalo Bills” have appeared in the same sentence ! Good job by you.


You are akin to a public nuisance. Your utopia world filled with solar panels will not happen anytime soon.


There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


R B Tate

Why tie up 5,000 acres? Didn't you previously enlighten us about the wonders of solar roads? Just buy up enough land for about a kilometer's worth near Keezletown. Worked out really good in Normandy, didn't it?


There would be far less need to tie up farm land in utility scale solar if we had codes in place requiring solar and energy efficiency built into each home and building, as well as parking lots (via canopies). But that would cut Dominion out of control, so farm land it will be.


It looks to be overcast all day, Bish - how much solar do reckon those farms would be generating on a day like today ?


About 25% as much as on a sunny day, or so they say.

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