Verboort – A neighborhood review meeting is set for the proposed development of a 12-acre photovoltaic solar facility, also known as a solar farm, on farmland near Verboort outside of Forest Grove.
The meeting will take place May 30 at 6:30 p.m. in the Forest Grove Auditorium located at 1915 Main Street.
In a letter obtained by the Gales Creek Journal that was sent to Washington County Citizen Participation Organization 13, Conor Grogan, a representative of Sulus Solar, which has offices in Portland and Brighton, England, wrote that the purpose of the meeting is to provide a forum for the applicant, surrounding property owners and residents to review the proposal and to discuss any issues before the company submits a land use ordinance application to the county.
Sulus Solar is representing the owner of the property.
“This meeting gives (the public) the opportunity to share with us any special information you know about the property involved,” the letter states. “We will attempt to answer questions (that) may be relevant to meeting development standards consistent with Washington County’s Community Development Code and the respective Community Plan.”
Throughout the Pacific Northwest, advocacy groups have been fighting to preserve farmland from being peppered with commercial solar development.
Land use watchdog group 1,000 Friends of Oregon has been battling similar developments across the state in recent years, and successfully lobbied the Marion County Board of Commissioners back in March to place a moratorium on the construction of solar facilities on farmland after several farm owners there were inundated with requests from solar companies.
And last April, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 to ban the development of solar facilities on what is considered prime farmland.
Oregon has guidelines in place to stop renewable energy developers from building on soil considered to be of high value, but developments that are 12 acres or less typically are exempted.
A post on 1,000 Friends of Oregon’s blog says the group generally is in favor of renewable energy development as long as facilities are built on existing open spaces, such as industrial sites, but the challenge for developers is solar arrays, a.k.a. solar panels, need to be near an electricity substation.
“1000 Friends of Oregon (supports) development of energy from non-fossil fuel sources, including wind and solar facilities,” the group’s website says. “However, all energy facilities, including those for renewable energy sources, have distinct siting challenges that need to be balanced with other needs and values, including conservation of working farm and forest lands, natural resources, and wildlife habitat.”
Solar development companies have proposed or constructed sites in eastern Oregon that range in size from 100 acres to 7,000 acres, and those developments also are drawing objections of 1,000 Friends of Oregon and other advocacy groups, as well as private citizens, landowners, and farmers, but not nearly as much as those proposed in the Willamette Valley.