Editorial – Hit pause button on solar farms

Published 6:51 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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We tread carefully in endorsing any infringement on property owners’ right to do what they wish with their land.

Yet, there are times when the interests of the broader community must be protected at an individual landowner’s expense, thus the advent of zoning laws and permits over the years to regulate how property is used. Appointed planning commissions and elected local governing boards occasionally go too far with their regulations, but they get it right much more often than they get it wrong. Communities are better when reasonable land-use rules are enforced.

The proliferation of solar farms across the landscape of Isle of Wight County is one such occasion that demands immediate attention from leadership.  

Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission voted 9-1 on Feb. 28 to advance to county supervisors a proposed ordinance that would impose a near-moratorium on solar farms. 

Approval by supervisors would buy planning and zoning staff time to further study an issue that’s not going away. Solar is here to stay as a renewable energy source, and we applaud the private sector’s considerable investment in technology that will protect our planet from greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, rural America’s landscape shouldn’t be covered with unsightly solar panels, which themselves could be environmentally harmful at the end of their lifespan. American agriculture already faces serious economic threats and, some experts fear, extinction, leaving our nation completely dependent on exports to clothe and feed its population. Prime farmland covered up with solar panels could hasten farming’s demise.   

Many smart people are studying the long-range costs and benefits of solar farms. Not to be discounted in the experts’ analyses is the tax revenue solar projects bring to local governments’ budgets. 

Time is needed to better understand all of the implications. We encourage Isle of Wight supervisors to approve the recommendation of the county’s Planning Commission.