Decision made on 18-acre solar farm off Courthouse Highway

Published 4:29 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

Isle of Wight County supervisors approved the county’s ninth solar farm on Nov. 16, one that at 18 acres will be among the county’s smallest.

Landowner Michael Doggett had applied in March for a conditional use permit that would allow the facility, dubbed “Courthouse Hwy Solar 1 LLC,” to occupy up to 18 acres of his 148-acre farm bordering Courthouse Highway and Poorhouse Road. The location is roughly half a mile from the county courthouse and government complex, and just over a mile north of the 20-megawatt, 170-acre Solidago solar farm the supervisors approved in 2018.

The supervisors had in May adopted an ordinance 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. According to Isle of Wight Community Development Director Amy Ring, the 18-acre facility and eight prior approved solar farms are still below the limit, accounting for roughly 2,226 acres collectively.

Ring said all 18 acres technically meet the definition of prime farmland, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as soils with the “best combination of physical and chemical characteristics” for growing crops. Doggett’s application, however, described the land as the “worst performing” on his farm and contends it has “only been used for hay.”

Supervisor Don Rosie, who had voted in opposition to the 637-acre Carver Solar farm the supervisors approved in August, this time sided with his fellow supervisors in voting unanimously to approve Doggett’s application.

“This is a piece of land that is not going to be that productive,” Rosie said.

He added that had the proposed project been any bigger, he might have voted differently.

Prior to voting, the supervisors held a public hearing on Doggett’s request that drew four speakers. Doggett himself and a relative, Megan Doggett, each urged support for the project, while retired engineer David Tucker and another Doggett relative, Jean Doggett Moody, spoke against the requested approval.

Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission had voted 6-4 in late October to endorse the project after deadlocking on an earlier motion by one of its members to recommend denial.

According to an economic impact analysis submitted with Doggett’s application, the solar farm is projected to generate $146,717 in real estate tax revenue over its 40-year lifespan and an additional $274,085 in machinery and tools tax revenue during the same four decades.