Isle of Wight ‘energy task force’ grows

Published 6:13 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

Isle of Wight County’s “energy task force” now has four of its seven members.

In November, the county’s Planning Commission recommended supervisors form the task force  to review Isle of Wight’s existing energy infrastructure, remaining capacity in high-voltage transmission lines, future energy generation projects and emerging energy generation technologies. The supervisors voted in February to create the task force, and decided on a seven-member body consisting of one representative from each of the county’s five voting districts and two at-large members.

The board voted in February to name Planning Commission member Thomas Distefano to the task force as its District 2 representative. On March 16, the board voted to name Lynn Briggs to the District 1 seat, David Tucker to the District 3 seat and Lewis Edmonds to the District 4 seat. The board approved all four nominations unanimously.

Distefano was the one who pushed for an ordinance that would impose a near-moratorium on solar farms by capping the cumulative acreage of existing and proposed solar farms to 2% of the county’s “prime” farm soils, or a maximum of 2,446 acres. The Planning Commission voted 9-1 in February to advance the proposed ordinance to supervisors, who have yet to take a final vote on the matter.

Briggs opposed the cap at the Planning Commission’s public hearing on the matter. Her family has owned farmland in the Morgart’s Beach area for generations and may some day wish to lease it to a solar company to keep the land in the family, Briggs told the commissioners.

Tucker, an engineer, has frequently opposed the proliferation of solar farms in the county, both at public hearings and in letters to the editor of The Smithfield Times.

Edmonds, in an email to The Smithfield Times, said he hasn’t taken a position one way or the other on solar farms.

“I am interested in a more holistic view of our energy infrastructure and helping the Board of Supervisors ensure our systems maximize resiliency and meet future demand,” Edmonds said. “I am looking forward to working with the task force members, supervisors and regional stakeholders.”

The supervisors have yet to appoint a District 5 representative from the Carrsville area, or the two at-large members.