Header Graphic
Small Town.
Big Solar?
Size Matters!
Info and Imagery

Here are links to articles and websites that provide general information
on the proposed project in Staunton, and on the issues related to solar facilities.  

For more detailed information on specific issues in Staunton,
see these pages on our website:


Who We Are

Who the Developers Are


View from Staunton Alliance Church on New Hope Road, as proposed.
Acres of black glass solar panels would cover the upper field and 
become the backdrop
for the YMCA camp, historic farms, and the family graves of Staunton's first settlers.
Insert at lower left shows aerial view of this edge of the 96 acre facility.


The Proposed Project in Staunton:

A brief history of a non-so-brief process to bring solar to Staunton
Staunton News Leader, Akhil Ganesh, June 26, 2023
Solar energy is likely headed to Staunton, though not without a fight.
For over a month, discussion around a proposed solar energy facility at 801 Commerce Road dominated the local conversation on social media from Facebook to NextDoor. During last Thursday’s marathon city council meeting, discussion and a public hearing on a special-use permit and siting agreement for a 15.75 megawatt utility-scale solar energy facility and a 5 megawatt community-scale solar energy facility attracted a packed house at Staunton City Hall.
The public hearing was filled with impassioned pleas from both sides of the conversation.
Read more here.

Why are some residents against the proposed solar project in Staunton?
Staunton News Leader, Akhil Ganesh, May 22, 2023
Staunton resident Annie Dixon just wants everyone to slow down. Dixon, who lives on New Hope Road, is one of a group of residents who are vehemently opposed to a proposed solar project at 801 Commerce Road. The residents all have their own reasons for not wanting the development, ranging from visual and environmental impacts to decommissioning plans and training for fire and rescue. They put together a website to detail their issues
While some of those concerns have been addressed through a series of 20 conditions attached to the proposed solar project, Dixon spoke to a lack of transparency: what's the rush, she wonders, to get the solar project done? Read more here.

A potential solar project is due in front of Staunton City Council soon. Here's what we know.
The News Leader, May 19, 2023
Akhil Ganesh offers a summary of the progress of the proposed project so far. Read it here.
Large-scale solar project proposed in Staunton
WMRA, April 10, 2023
A Richmond-based contractor is eyeing Staunton as a potential home for a utility-sized solar installation, WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports. A 96-acre piece of farmland bordered by Commerce and New Hope Road in Staunton could become home to a large solar array. More
Applications for Zoning Change and Special Use Permit
Oikos Staunton Utility Solar Project documents are available for download on the Timeline page, here.
Property Owner, Developer, Affiliates

Names and addresses of parties involved in potential project, pulled from applications on file with the city and other publicly available documents, are listed here.


View from New Hope Road
Ahead, around the curve, farmland would be converted to industrial zoning for utility-scale solar equipment.

General Information on Utility-Scale Solar Facilities:

Utility-scale solar is coming to a farm near you
Virginia Mercury, September 21, 2023
Local conservationist and pipeline protester, Robert Whitescarver, offers his list of ten things to demand from any utility-scale solar project in Virginia. By his standard, the proposed project in Staunton lacks at least five of them:
1) Proper screening with vegetation and setbacks from property lines. The developer, planning commission, and city council acknowledge this site cannot be properly screened from New Hope Road or from above Commerce Road, due to the rolling topography.
2) Enough space between the rows of panels to support plant growth and water infiltration. This 20.75 megawatt facility on 96 acres crowds the panels together on just 4.62 acres per MW.
3) The requirement that the land be returned to its original use if solar panels are removed. The city planning department notes the premature removal of ag-forestal overlay zoning will zone this parcel industrial permanently.
4) Minimal impact on cultural resources. Acres of solar panels will encroach on the viewshed of scenic and historic land, buildings, and gravesites.
5) Stellar public participation and transparency. Staunton's agricultural advisory committee met and voted in spite of three vacancies, with no agendas or minutes available to the public.
Read the whole list here and judge the proposed project in Staunton for yourself.

Is Virginia at a solar crossroads?
Cardinal News, April 19, 2022
As utility-scale solar projects spread across central and Southside Virginia, local governments and residents have been wrestling with how to balance the sometimes competing goals of preserving farmland and reducing carbon emissions. More

Planning for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Facilities
American Planning Association, September/October 2019
This report examines utility-scale solar facility uses and related land-use issues. It defines and classifies these facilities, analyzes their land-use impacts, and makes recommendations for how to evaluate and mitigate those impacts. While public officials tend to focus on the economics of these facilities and their overall fiscal impact to the community, the emphasis for planners is on the direct land-use considerations that should be carefully evaluated (e.g., zoning, neighbors, viewsheds, and environmental impacts). Specific recommendations and sample language for addressing utility-scale solar in comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances are provided at the end of the article. More

Solar installations hasten loss of Virginia farmland
Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, July 26, 2022
Local officials who are thinking about approving special use permits to allow more industrial-sized solar facilities to be built on agricultural land in their jurisdictions owe it to their constituents to tally up all of the potential future costs – especially the loss of irreplaceable farmland – as well as the benefits before signing off on this supposedly “free” form of energy production. More
Lots of ‘renewable’ options for energy consumers, but why are so few of them any good?
Virginia Mercury, May 21, 2021
Virginia residents who want to do right by the planet are confronted with a bewildering array of renewable energy and “green power” options. Unfortunately, few of these programs actually deliver renewable energy.
To understand how there can be so many options and none of them good, we first have to talk about renewable energy certificates. More

Image by Ceinturion, CC BY-SA 3.0

Zoning and Timing Concerns:

The Bells Lane Agricultural-Forestal District is overlay zoning which is reviewed for renewal every ten years. The parcel under consideration for development as a solar utility power plant is zoned I1, Light Industrial, underneath. The property owner may opt out of the agricultural district when the current overlay term expires December 31, 2030.
As the Staunton City Code states, "upon termination of any of the districts or withdrawal of any parcel from a district, when permitted, the underlying zoning with its rules and regulations shall continue to be in effect."
The code also states, "No land within a district shall be removed from the district except with the approval of the council of the city of Staunton, upon a showing of good and reasonable cause."
What is the "good and reasonable cause" to remove 96 acres from the district, seven years ahead of schedule?


Stormwater Concerns:

Virginia Tech-led researchers to study large solar farms' impact on soil and water
Cardinal News, August 8, 2023
A six-year project aims to break new ground in terms of the scope of real-world data collected on sediment and stormwater runoff at utility-scale solar facilities.
This is exactly why local residents are concerned about the rush to construct this project: “DEQ staff have noticed a number of stormwater and erosion issues related to the current design standards for solar projects and have determined that the state of the science has not kept up with the needs of this industry in Virginia,” DEQ spokesperson Irina Calos said. Read more here.

CITYgreen Analysis
CITYgreen is an analysis program developed by American Forests to measure the environmental effects of changing landscapes. An analysis report was run for the Bell’s Lane Agricultural District and for this area developed as zoned.  Using this analysis tool, air pollution and carbon storage sequestration numbers do not change because there would not be a significant change in tree canopy.  Developing the area as zoned [without the ag-forestal overlay], though, would affect the stormwater runoff.  The increase in impervious surfaces associated with developing industrial, business, and residential would increase the annual stormwater runoff by 1,340,781 cubic feet and cost an estimated $2,681,561 in stormwater infrastructure. Read more and see graphs here, pdf pages 74-77 (numbers on pages are 73-76)


Map submitted with the application shows the location --and the scale-- of the proposed facility
and its proximity to Lewis Creek and surrounding flood plain, as well as homes and farms.


Researchers say stormwater from solar fields needs careful management
Augusta Free Press, September 5, 2022
Solar panels are going up across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help states reach their renewable energy targets. But, while working to achieve climate-related goals, solar fields have the potential to generate water pollution — through increased stormwater runoff. More

Virginia debates impact of solar panels on stormwater runoff
Bay Journal, April 26, 2022
According to DEQ Director Mike Rolband, “There are all sorts of problems with runoff from solar facilities. The fundamental issue is that for several years now a decision was made that solar panels are pervious. That’s a problem for the downstream folks [because] it doesn’t follow the erosion and sediment protocols. It’s causing damage to people, and we want to fix that." More

How Virginia farmers claim Dominion is destroying their land: 'It's pretty catastrophic'

WTVR channel 6 Richmond, October 6, 2021

They say with each rain their land is being threatened by their new neighbor. "If they want a solar field back there, that's their property and their business," Collier III said. "But when you destroy surrounding land, then it becomes our business."
The neighbors say since last fall, every time it rains, a little more of their land is being washed away by excess stormwater runoff from Dominion Energy's Belcher Solar Project. More


Wildlife and Quality of Life Concerns:

Bells Lane is 1.7 miles long and winds through scenic, rolling rural pasturelands, mixed forest, and wetlands that lie on the northeast side of Staunton city limits. This is probably the most popular location in Staunton among birders. It is also a very popular place for local folks to go walking, running, or bicycling. Read more on the Birding Virginia website.

Green Infrastructure Strategies for Staunton, Virginia
December 11, 2009
There are also multiple working farms and open spaces within the city, some of which are currently designated by agricultural‐forestal overlay districts.  These farms provide wildlife habitat, protect viewsheds, and contribute to the historic agricultural character of the community.  Residents frequent the rural roads within the agricultural areas for walking, running, and bicycling.  Working farmlands within city limits are a unique feature to the City of Staunton.  Downzoning these properties to an agricultural designation will help ensure continued existing use and economic viability. Read more here, pdf file page 51; number on page is 50.
Few cities have the unique opportunity of having working farmland within their limits. Staunton has an opportunity to capitalize on and set an example for other cities in the eastern United States by developing a partnership with their farming community. Most of the property has been in the same family for generations that could develop into cultural and historical educational opportunities. Working agricultural lands can contribute to the economic base through reduced city services costs and increased tourism. Read more here., pdf file page 56; number on page is 55.

Solar farms at risk of 'overwhelming' villages, says councillor
March 17
Councillor Newton said villagers in Tetsworth were concerned about how solar farms would affect the landscape. She said: “They’re really worried about a third of the area of their village being turned into solar farms and the impact that will have on a valued landscape.” Read more here... before it happens in Staunton.

Government and Economic Factors in Utility-Scale Solar:

The Biden Administration Misleads the Public on the Vast Expanses of Land Needed for 'Net Zero'

Real Clear Investigations, James Varney, September 12, 2023
The Department of Energy's official line --echoed by many environmental activists and academics-- is that the vast array of solar panels and wind turbines required to meet Biden's goal of "100% clean electricity" by2035 will require "less than one-half of one percent of the contiguous U.S. land area." This topline number translates into 15,000 of the lower 48's roughly 3 million square miles.
However, the government report that furnished those estimates also notes that the wind farm footprint alone could require an expanse nine times as large: 134,000 square miles.
Even that figure is misleading because it does not include land for the new transmission systems that would connect the energy, created by the solar panels carpeting the ground and skyscraper-tall wind turbines filling the horizons, to American businesses and homes. More
The US House and Senate voted to restore solar tariffs -- and Biden just vetoed that
electrek, Michele Lewis, May 16, 2023
In 2022, President Joe Biden waived tariffs on solar products made in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam while the US Department of Commerce (DOC) conducted an investigation into whether those imports were circumventing duties on goods made in China, thus violating US law. More
Green Energy Industry Admits It Needs Cheap Chinese Goods To Survive
Industry leaders in panic as Congress pushes to impose tariffs on Chinese solar panels
Washington Free Beacon, May 2, 2023
The green energy industry is scrambling as Congress pushes forward with legislation that would impose costly tariffs on Chinese solar panels, a move that industry leaders say would cripple their business given their overwhelming reliance on cheap Chinese suppliers.
The House on Friday passed a bipartisan bill to restore tariffs on Chinese solar panels sold out of Southeast Asia, tariffs that President Joe Biden suspended last year in an attempt to "satisfy the demand for reliable and clean energy." The legislation has already garnered support among some Senate Democrats, reflecting s significant possibility that the bill will become law.
For the green energy industry, that possibility marks a full-blown disaster. More
Virginia solar developers say stormwater rules could wash away their margins
Energy News Network, Elizabeth McGowan, November 15, 2022
The state's Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing proposed stormwater regulations that would treat ground-mounted solar arrays the same as parking lots, likely requiring developers to acquire more land. More

Gov. Northam signs Virginia Clean Economy Act
NBC12 News Richmond, Apr. 12, 2020
The Virginia Clean Economy Act was passed as House Bill 1526 and Senate Bill 85. The Act incorporates clean energy directions that the Governor issued in Executive Order Forty-Three in September 2019 which results from extensive stakeholder input and incorporates environmental justice concepts related to the Green New Deal.
The law requires new measures to promote energy efficiency, sets a schedule for closing old fossil fuel power plants, and requires electricity to come from 100 percent renewable sources such as solar or wind. More

More articles and links coming soon...

If you have some to suggest, please use the form on the Contact page.

Thank you.