Plan Commission recommends extension of solar energy moratorium

·2 min read

Jan. 12—ANDERSON — The Madison County Plan Commission is recommending an extension of the moratorium on large scale solar energy development through the end of the year.

The current moratorium on solar energy projects of 50 acres or more is set to expire in March.

The Plan Commission Tuesday voted to recommend to the Madison County Board of Commissioners that the moratorium be extended to Dec. 31, 2022, or until the new county solar ordinance is adopted.

Several residents spoke in favor of extending the moratorium until the new ordinance is adopted by county officials.

The moratorium and proposed solar ordinance has no impact on the $110 million, 120-megawatt proposed Lone Oak Solar Farm by Invenergy which has already been approved.

Lisa Rinker said there is a Virginia based company attempting to purchase 1,600 acres for a solar energy development east of Alexandria.

While the moratorium is in effect no applications will be accepted by the Madison County Planning Department for solar energy projects in excess of 50 acres.

Rinker said the company is currently signing lease agreements with area farmers.

"We want to get information out to people," Rinker said of the planned development. "The solar ordinance is involved and there is a lot to consider.

"People need to get all the facts and the county needs a good ordinance in place," she said.

Rinker said her family will not sign a lease agreement, stating concerns about property values and possible contamination of wells.

She said her property would be surrounded on four sides by solar panels.

"Why is there a decommissioning plan," Rinker asked. "If this (solar energy) is beneficial, why not just replace the solar panels after 30 years."

The Plan Commission is planning to conduct three informational meetings on the proposed solar ordinance.

The Plan Commission is also required to conduct a public hearing before voting on the ordinance.

The Madison County Commissioners have to approve any proposed ordinance and can require the Plan Commission to adopt changes.

The draft ordinance contains a property value guarantee, limits commercial solar farms to 20% of the prime agricultural land in the county and limits what zone classification a project would be permitted.

Large scale solar energy projects will be permitted in areas zoned for industrial use.

The ordinance requires a 200-foot setback from adjacent property lines and requires any developer to conduct at least one community informational meeting.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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