Isle of Wight approves Prairie solar farm

Published 5:04 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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Isle of Wight County supervisors on June 15 voted unanimously to approve what will be the county’s seventh solar farm.

Arlington-based Energix Renewables had sought a conditional use permit for the 20-megawatt,  432-acre “Prairie Solar” facility on Longview Drive, though only 152 acres would see solar panels and fencing. The rest of the land, which is owned by Everets Properties, will continue to be farmed for timber.

Prairie will be located within roughly a mile of the existing Woodland solar farm, also on Longview Drive.

The Prairie project is projected to generate roughly $3.3 million in additional revenue for the county between real estate and machinery and tools taxes over its 35-year lifespan.

The approved siting agreement specifies Prairie is to make a one-time $364,499 payment to Isle of Wight and pay M&T taxes for each of its 35 operational years.

State law allows localities to, in lieu of collecting M&T taxes, impose a $1,400-per-megawatt annual payment that escalates 10% every five years, but doing so in this case would bring the county less revenue than it would receive under the M&T rate, according to county staff. The one-time payment is intended to equal what Energix would otherwise have paid under a $1,400-per-megawatt agreement for its first year in operation.

“Energix Renewables would like to thank the Board of Supervisors, county officials and the citizens of Isle of Wight for their support in approving this important renewable energy project,” said Allie Ondash, senior associate of project development at Energix, in a company news release. “We are eager to complete state permitting and begin the construction phase, which will stimulate local construction jobs and provide increased tax revenues to the county.”

County supervisors, in May, voted to enact changes to its solar ordinance limiting 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. All 152 acres of the Prairie project are prime soils, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as land with the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for growing crops. Prairie’s approval, according to county data, brings the cumulative amount of prime farmland occupied by existing or approved solar farms in Isle of Wight to 1,911 acres, or 78% of the maximum.

Energix anticipates submitting its application for a state permit this summer and starting construction early next year. The facility could be operational as early as mid- to late 2024.