Solar Farm in Batesville?

From the Charlottesville Community Engagement newsletter

Solar facility planned near Batesville

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors amended its zoning ordinance in 2017 to allow property owners to petition for permission to install solar panels on fields in order to generate a large scale amount of electricity for consumer use. So far, none have been installed under the changes. 

Now, Sun Tribe Solar has filed a special use permit request for an 8 megawatt facility on a 136 acres property on Craigs Store Road owned by the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. The project would also include a 4 megawatt battery storage unit. The site is currently undeveloped woodlands. More than half of the property would remain forested.  The Timmons Group has produced several environmental studies of the property. One found no “recognized environmental conditions” that would halt the project. 

The application from SunTribe states the project would be built on about 60 acres of the land and is proposed to last for 20 years, with the option for three more 5-year periods. There is also a decommissioning plan that lays out how the project would be deconstructed when it is no longer being used. (project narrative)

“The land disturbance required for construction of a solar facility is far less than most other types of development, such as residential development,” reads the application. “This carbon-free, renewable energy will power 2,600 Central Virginia Electric Cooperative households in Albemarle County.”

The application states the existing property has only generated $500 a year in local taxes due to the land use taxation program. Now that the property has had its agricultural and forest district designation removed, the new landowner will have to pay the full taxes on the property for the past five years. Other new sources of revenue to the county will also be available in the form of personal property taxes on the solar infrastructure. In all, the application states the project would bring in nearly $1 million in property tax revenue over the next forty years. 

“In comparison to the current tax base for this parcel, which would be expected to result in approximately $20,000 over the next 40 years, this project represents an approximately 48 times increase in current tax revenue,” reads the application. 

However, special use permits give adjacent property owners and others the right to make a public comment for the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The first step in the community engagement process is the community meeting that will be held virtually beginning at 5:30 p.m. (meeting info)

Master Gardener Events on Zoom

Bev emailed me asking if I’d do a story about this Master Gardener event series, “In this time of COVID, many have turned to gardening as one of the ways to enjoy the outdoors, reduce stress and reap concrete rewards for the work.”

She obliged my request for her to write one I could publish. 🙂

by Bev Thierwechter

Every year, the Piedmont Master Gardeners Association, in partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension, train a new group of people interested in learning how to become an Extension Master Gardener volunteer educator.

Avid gardeners who wish to enhance their skills and share their knowledge as community educators are invited to attend one of three online orientation sessions on how to become an Extension Master Gardener volunteer. The virtual sessions will be on Thursday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. on October 8, October 15 and October 22. To register and receive a Zoom link to one of the sessions, contact [email protected] or call 540-727-3435. More information is available here.

The three sessions will be hosted by Rapidan River Extension for residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Greene, Madison, Orange, Culpeper and Fluvanna Counties. They will provide an orientation for next year’s Extension Master Gardener Training Class for these localities, to be held online on Thursday evenings from January 21 to April 29, 2021, as well as outdoors on four Saturday mornings, February 20, March 6, April 17 and May 8.

Applications for the 2021 Training Class are being accepted through November 1. More information and application forms are available here.

Part of Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), the Extension Master Gardener program comprises volunteer educators who help their communities adopt science-based and environmentally sound horticultural practices. In the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, the Piedmont Master Gardeners provide some 12,000 hours of volunteer service each year and are engaged in more than 20 ongoing outreach projects.

Update on Recycling in Crozet

Just received from the Crozet Community Association listserv:

 Dear CCA members,

At the last CCA meeting, members discussed the continue need for a Crozet recycling center as envisioned in the master plan.  I agreed to gather information on the center and other recycling-related topics.  Here is my report on the recycling topics that were raised at the meeting:

1. Status of Recycling Center, Crozet Master Plan:  I wrote to Supervisor Ann Mallek to inquire about the budget for the recycling center and to express frustration at the length of time involved in releasing the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority strategic plan. Here is Ann’s response:

“I could not agree more and I spoke last week (early January) at the Planning District comm about the slow pace that the RSWA is taking with this process. True, there is $250,000 in the allocated budget for the recycling center facility. What is not there is the money for personnel to staff it.  I asked the folks in Nelson County, since they have the huge recycling area at Rockfish and they said that staff is essential to prevent the area from becoming a dump.

Or have an agency who would supervise, such as the Earlysville fire company was interested in doing last year. We have been treading water. I will again push our staff to come forth with the solid waste study, last year’s hold up, so the community can read for itself the results of all the public meetings and surveys.

Everyone I talked to wanted a MURF, a materials utilization recycling center and the ability to collect unseparated materials. When I spoke last spring to Tom Frederick about the opening of the center in Fluvanna who can take all recyclables for 49 a ton, I asked why we cannot use their facility until we have the money to do something ourselves.

I will reopen the discussion with RSWA. The city and county have a contract with the authority to handle solid waste, so we do not have the legal ability to go out on our own, sadly.  More soon on these issues.” Ann Mallek

2. RWSA Bulky Waste and Household Hazardous and Business Hazardous Waste Amnesty Day — the spring dates when tires, appliances, and household waste can be dumped for free at the landfill have not yet been set, but when they are set they will be available at

3. FREE Television and Electronics Recycling Event- Jan 31In anticipation of the switch to digital TV signals, Crutchfield is partnering with several local groups to host a FREE Television and Electronics Recycling Event. The event will be held rain or shine from 9am to 3pm on Saturday, January 31, 2009 in front of Crutchfield at the Rio Hill Shopping Center (snow date Saturday, February 7th).

The EPA estimates that in 2007 over 26 million televisions were discarded by Americans, and, surprisingly, an estimated 99 million old televisions are stockpiled or stored in people’s homes. Once the digital conversion takes place, many of those televisions will have little value. The average television contains over 6 pounds of toxic materials. For more information, visit Crutchfield’s site.

4.  Newspaper Recycling — at the CCA meeting, a resident mentioned that recycling newspapers is her biggest concern.  I learned that all trash haulers servicing Albemarle County are required to offer curbside pick up of newspaper. Residents should place bagged newspaper out with their trash. The county director of Pulibc Works, Michael Freitas (296 5816) oversees the licensing of haulers in Albemarle County.

I hope this information is helpful.  Kathleen Jump

Just so you know – we have two curbside recycling options in Albemarle County – Green Pieces Recycling (whose website has been down since I wrote my original story months ago) and My Recycling Club.

Crozet Gateway Moving forward

Take a picture of the intersection of 240 and 250. It won’t be the same. dead link

… the Board of Supervisors approved a site plan for a new development at a key intersection in Crozet. –   The Crozet Gateway project will redevelop a 2 acre site at the corner of Route 240 and Route 250 near Brownsville Elementary School.  The existing convenience store will be replaced with two multi-story commercial buildings, a use allowed by-right on the property.

Recycling in Crozet Poll

With all the talk of recycling in Crozet and the discussion on the Crozet Community Association listserv, I figured I would post a poll here, hopefully for a centralized location for responses.

So, without further ado …

Update January 2019: the struck-through below used to be a polling plugin. It’s now defunct.


Please vote, tell and/or email your friends about this poll. For more information on what you can do to advocate for recycling in Crozet, read more here.

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One small step towards environmental sustainability in Crozet

If you get antsy listening to a lot of ideas without any action, you really wanted to be at the meeting on Sunday evening, January 28, when about 40 people gathered in the basement of Tabor Presbyterian Church to talk about the environment. The meeting was a follow-up to an earlier meeting at which “An Inconvenient Truth” was shown. After that apparently quite depressing evening, this evening was unofficially described as Chapter Two: What We Can Do to Make a Difference. Steve Brown, of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, led most of the meeting. (VIPL, an organization that began in 2004 and has 20 state chapters, works to spread the word about small and large ways concerned communities can make a difference regarding the environment.)

Rather than spending too much time re-hashing what a mess we’re in, Mr. Brown quickly got the ball rolling on things we can do RIGHT NOW to make a difference. He speaks from experience, as he built his own “net-zero” house in Charlottesville–a house that costs $30 per month to operate completely and often earns (rather than costs) him money from the power company, due to its solar panels. This got my attention right away.

Mr. Brown showed a DVD called “Kilowatt Ours,” a documentary created by Jeff Barry about the current sources of power in this country and their impact –and what we can do to make a difference. I highly recommend seeing the DVD to get the full impact of how simple these changes can be–on a small and large scale. Put simply:

1. Use energy efficiently.
2. Move towards using renewable sources of energy (such as wind and solar power).

Okay, I know that’s obvious. But we don’t do it, do we? Let me give you some juicy details:

-One kilowatt hour (kwh) of energy (which would run your AC about 30 minutes) burns one pound of coal in order to be produced. The average home in the southeast uses 36 kwh per day. That’s 36 pounds of coal. And we all know where that coal comes from, right? Watch the mountains disappear in West Virginia, if you’re not sure. The average home will use 6 TONS of coal per year to create its electricity. Of course, producing that energy also causes CO2 emissions and mercury to enter the air.

So, every time you flip a light switch, you burn coal. When you know that, you think differently about using electricity. But what can you do RIGHT NOW that will make a difference?

Change every single lightbulb in your house to long-lasting, energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. If we all changed the bulbs in just ONE ROOM, according to Mr. Barry, we would eliminate 1 trillion pounds of CO2 emissions going into our atmosphere. Imagine what changing the bulbs throughout the whole house would do.

Folks there had other good, immediate, and easy suggestions for ways to make your own energy use more efficient:

-turn off your computer (and everything else) at night
-put a timer on your hot water heater so that it works in the morning and evening, but not all day, when there’s no one there
-buy only energy efficient appliances, such as “Energy Star” appliances–front loading washing machines, for example

Bigger changes you can make:

-install a geothermal heating system (will pay for itself in 7 years, according to Mr. Brown)
-install solar panels to make use of the sun’s energy–a 2400 square foot house could install a $20,000 system and run coal/nuclear power free — if that sounds daunting, realize that just about ANY roof space can be utilized to collect solar energy

Mr Brown suggests that if you are building a new house, you can make it a “Net Zero” house–that is, a house that costs nothing for energy use–by paying 15 – 25% more per square foot.

All of these changes will save you money in the long run (after the initial expense of the new materials), but, even more importantly, you’ll be making less of an impact on the environment every single day. Even if you can’t afford solar panels, I bet you can afford to change one room’s worth of light bulbs! Right??

Now, what about our community? What can we do to make a difference regarding the environment? Advocacy, advocacy, advocacy!

1. Write or call Michael Freitas, Chief of Public Works for the County (401 McIntire Rd Rm 224, Charlottesville, VA 22902-4579 ; 434- 296-5816) and tell him WE WANT A RECYCLING CENTER IN CROZET. The County’s plan includes, supposedly, three recycling centers in the county. It hasn’t happened yet. Let’s make it happen. Bruce Edmunds of Rivanna Solid Waste Authority says that RSWA will run it. Let’s get the County moving on finding a site and making it happen. Do I need to explain why? Human beings, it is said, create 600 times their weight in trash in their lifetime–and 75% of what we throw away is recyclable. Recycling 1 can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours. Think how many more people would recycle if we didn’t have to schlep it all to McIntire! Curbside recycling is problematic due to expense and the use of energy for the collection vehicles. So let’s get a center open. Waynesboro (pop 20,000) did it–and its center serves 1200 people a day!

2. Tell the County, in any way you can, that ALL NEW DEVELOPMENTS AND PUBLIC BUILDINGS should meet “green” standards. We have a chance to speak now before things are built–let’s demand that they get built the right way. Waynesboro is an example of a city making changes: they use a system called “daylighting” that makes better use of natural light in their new elementary school, and Kate Collins Middle School is going geothermal. They’ve dug 320 wells for the geothermal coils in the school’s front yard, and the system is predicted to pay for itself in 5 – 7years. Mr. David Wayand , who was there as a Crozet resident and spoke also as a County government member, reminded us that we can lead the County, instead of waiting for it. We are already leaders, in that we are the first community with a Master Plan. Old Trail has to come in with a new site plan because of rezoning, so we have a chance to lead, rather than be at the mercy of circumstances.

3. Work for things already in place in many states –rebates for installing solar panels; a deal in which people using solar power get paid the peak rate for the energy their panels produce, and pay the non-peak rate for whatever energy they use off of the grid.

4. Make the environment an election issue–locally, state-wise, and nationally. Denmark gets 28% of its power from renewable sources. The US gets 0.1% (one tenth of one percent). We can do better than this. A New England Consortium of states has pledged that they will aim for 12 – 20% of their power coming from renewable sources. It’s only a pledge, but we don’t even have that at this point.

Good news: Albemarle County has joined the Kyoto Protocols and has also changed to LED lights in all of its traffic lights and exit lights, reducing energy use enormously.

I left the meeting inspired, ready to make a difference instantly in my own home and more slowly but surely in my community. For my children’s air, for the fields I want them to play in and the mountains I hope they get to climb, I am glad I saw Mr. Barry’s DVD and heard Mr. Brown speak. I’m staying tuned for the next meeting and the next steps.

Ed note: All it takes is one person to start the conversation. It’s up to the rest of us to listen and act.

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