One year after adopting an ordinance pertaining to large-scale solar facilities, Shenandoah County has added an accompanying ordinance defining their small-scale counterparts and associated by-right installations.
County supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to approve the small-scale solar facility ordinance, as well as several changes to the existing large-scale solar ordinance.
The county now defines a small-scale solar facility as a renewable energy facility that either:
• Has a total area impacted by the construction and operation of the facility no greater than 2 acres and has not been found by the zoning administrator to create “substantial impact on the health, safety and welfare” of the public; or
• is to be mounted on or over a building, cemetery, parking lot or other impervious surface; or
• solely uses integrated photovoltaic systems; or
• solely uses biophotovoltaic or agrophotovoltaic systems and is not deemed by the zoning administrator to create “substantial impact on the health, safety and welfare” of the public.
Small-scale solar facilities are permitted by-right in all zoning districts, unless such a facility is found to create substantial impact to public safety and welfare. In that instance, a small-scale facility can be defined as a large-scale facility and would require a special permit.
Small-scale facilities must follow the same general regulations as large-scale facilities, including a limit on noise generated by the facility (noise level can’t exceed 65 decibels as measured at the property line or 50 decibels at the nearest neighboring inhabitable building at the time the facility is built) and a requirement to obtain all necessary permits from federal, state and county governments and comply with the standards of major code and safety organizations.
Changes to the existing large-scale facility ordinance include guidance for applicants to provide glint and glare studies as part of the required viewshed impact study, and site plans must now include the location of pollinator plants in accordance with the applicant’s pollinator plan and the location of buffering or screening to address viewshed impacts based on the associated study.
Applicants for large-scale facilities are now required to include a statement of compliance with the county’s comprehensive plan in their application. Applicants are only required to submit a draft statement of intent on their decommissioning plan and must submit a final decommissioning plan prior to approval of the final site plan.
Decommissioning steps for large-scale facilities must now also include steps to restore the site to its prior condition, and decommissioning must take place within six months of the facility becoming abandoned (the previous deadline was 12 months).
The amendment to the solar ordinance also provided clarification that noise-level requirements do not apply to inhabitable structures located on the parcel on which the facility is constructed.
Supervisors Josh Stephens, Steve Baker, Brad Pollack, Karl Roulston, Dennis Morris and Tim Taylor attended Tuesday’s regular meeting.