CWTrust With large solar projects on horizon in Culpeper, what is the value of historic views?

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With large solar projects on horizon in Culpeper, what is the value of historic views?
By Allison Brophy Champion Culpeper Star-Exponent
Aug 22, 2018

A recent study by the Washington, D.C.-based American Battlefield Trust provided its analysis of the impact large solar farms would have on some of this area’s most hallowed ground.


The 14-page document answered some key questions: How far could Confederate and Union troops see from the half-dozen signal stations around Culpeper County during the Civil War, what did the views look like and what is the modern-day value of preserving such elevated vistas near the same areas proposed for two large solar farm projects?

American Battlefield Trust – an umbrella organization for the Civil War Trust – recently-commissioned, “A War-Time Viewshed Study of Culpeper County,” written by Glenn Stach, a preservation landscape architect and planner based in North Carolina.

A “viewshed” denotes the geographical area visible from a particular location, in this case, what was in view from six Civil War era observation points, or signal stations. The study used 3D technology to show on maps the detectable lands looking five or 20 miles out from signal stations including at Mount Pony, Fleetwood Hill and Hansbrough’s Ridge.

The Trust owns land at the latter two sites as part of the Brandy Station Battlefield, site of the massive 1863 cavalry clash. Both places would be included in a Trust-led proposal for a Battlefield State Park currently under consideration at the state level. If the proposed Culpeper County solar projects are constructed, its panels would be viewable from all three Civil War era signal stations, according to Stach.

“View sheds continually rank within the state as very significant to visitors,” he said. “Battlefield preservation and the experience of a battlefield today are best protected by the protection of agricultural lands.”

He continued, “Helping farmers continue to farm helps battlefield preservation and the experience of heritage tourism.”

During the War Between the States, Culpeper County experienced eight military campaigns, six battles and many hundreds of acres of military encampments, posts and pickets.

Lesser known are the observation points providing war-time communication and intelligence, located atop some of Culpeper’s most visible and “iconic” hills and mountains, according to the Viewshed Study.

Today’s views from the six posts, stretching across most of Culpeper County, are “a contributing and character-defining feature of the historic landscape” worthy of continued stewardship and conservation, the study stated.

“This wide-ranging network served two important military purposes – communication and intelligence,” said Craig Swain, a historian cited in the study.

The importance of the observation points was because of how they were laid out. To the north was a string of stations co-located near headquarters, to the south were stations allowing observation of the Confederate lines across the Rapidan River, and a station on Pony Mountain operated as a central ‘hub’ to relay messages, according to Swain.

Stach admitted it’s impossible to protect 20 miles of view shed.

“A contemporary viewshed policy says five miles is what you should manage, the mitigation of resources within that viewshed is most important,” he said.

The two proposed solar projects both are within that five-mile area. The panels will stretch up to maximum 15-feet during peak times, according to the extensive application submitted earlier this year by Texas-based Greenwood Solar seeking to build a utility scale project on 1,000 acres south of Stevensburg.

A separate project by Virginia Solar seeks to build on 172 acres between Stevensburg and Brandy Station with both following the existing Dominion Power transmission line.

Attorney John Foote, representing Greenwood Solar, said the project is fully consistent with the county’s solar guidance, which emphasize historic resource protection.

“The project will be entirely out of view from the county’s several ‘core battlefields.’ The project is located south of Route 3 and is not visible from the most sensitive Civil War sites located north of the road,” Foote said.

He said the solar panels would “have a very low profile” of less than 12-feet and would follow existing land contours. Greenwood Solar did not respond to a question about how many total solar panels the project would comprise, but said its entire perimeter would have rows of planted trees and existing native timbers remaining in place.

“In fact, the solar panels will be far less visible than many others uses in the general area,” Foote said. “This proposed project is not asking for, nor does it need, any taxpayer-supported county services. In addition, it will generate emission-free energy and create additional tax revenue for the county.”

Half-dozen landowners of farmland near Stevensburg, including Culpeper County Board Chairman Bill Chase, have entered into contracts with Greenwood Solar to build the project. According to a lengthy application submitted by the company in March, the project will generate an estimated $1.2 million in annual lease payments to the landowners over the project’s anticipated 40-year life.

While the American Battlefield Trust contends it is not directly opposed to any particular solar project, its recent study encourages local leaders to take “a second look” at potential impacts to “cultural landscapes observable from places with names like Mount Pony, Hansbrough’s Ridge, Stony Mountain and Fleetwood Hill.”

“The purpose of the Viewshed Study is to assist the county by providing valuable information which county officials can easily draw on to direct utility-scale development in a context-sensitive, preservation-friendly fashion that comports with the historic character of Culpeper County,” said American Battlefield Trust spokesman Mark Coombs.

He said Culpeper County’s recently-developed utility scale solar policy recommends no such development on core battlefield lands as identified by Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The county’s policy also states that “Battlefield Study Areas” around core lands would be considered “sensitive,” further noting as desirable the screening of views from historically significant properties.


“Visual impact on property designated as historic by its inclusion in the Comprehensive Plan … shall be minimized to the greatest extent possible,” the county’s policy reads.

Meanwhile, the Culpeper County Comprehensive Plan recommends “mitigation measures” for all new development with “Areas of Historic Interest” identified in the plan, including at Hansbrough Ridge, Mount Pony and Fleetwood Hill.

“What is less understood is this concept of wartime viewsheds and their importance within a historic framework to the county,” he said. “If Culpeper is going to consider a given application for a utility scale solar project, we hope this could assist the county to consider that and the visitor experience.”

Coombs continued if multiple solar farmers were allowed in a particular area vista views would be obstructed. The study is not an attempt by the Trust to thwart solar, he stressed.

He called the value of a historic view intangible, priceless. “Battlefields, viewsheds all play into that American story, that cultural identity, that authentic experience,” he said.

Coombs called them “outdoor classrooms” one can read about in books or study in school.

“But until you’re standing on place like Hansbrough’s Ridge and you’re able to see the landscape for yourself and put yourself in the shoes of the soldiers who were there, that’s a kind of understanding you can only achieve on site looking at those viewsheds,” he said.

The American Battlefield Trust estimated Virginia earns $6.5 billion annually in heritage tourism.


Allison Brophy Champion can be reached at abrophy@starexponent.com or (540) 825-4315.

Full article with pics and maps can be seen here - https://www.fredericksburg.com/news/local/culpeper/with-large-solar-projects-on-horizon-in-culpeper-what-is/article_9af98981-4b53-5ae2-9e4d-272f28a0e5e3.html

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Battle brewing? Culpeper County planners to get first look at latest large scale solar project
By Allison Brophy Champion Culpeper Star-Exponent
Mar 13, 2019

RACCOON FORD—Rumblings related to the latest utility scale solar project possibly coming to Culpeper County are surfacing as the planning commission prepares to get a first look this week at the 80-megawatt proposal of California-based Cricket Solar that would place 271,556 panels on 807 acres in a rural, sparsely populated area near the Rapidan River.

Opponents of the project planned for the southern part of Culpeper, near the Orange County line, primarily along Algonquin Trail, Virginia 647, say it will destroy the area’s historic resources while proponents say it will generate clean energy in an area in need of an economic infusion.

Full article can be found here - https://www.roanoke.com/news/virginia/battle-brewing-culpeper-county-planners-to-get-first-look-at/article_e0974696-c3ab-5806-ab4a-9afb9777526d.html
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Reverend Ron

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Yes. If you scroll thru the photos attached to the newspaper article. That's me making a fashion statement in the fluorescent orange hunting jacket . It's been 160 years since "insurrection" has been openly discussed within the confines of the church : )
 

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A Battle Is Raging Over The Largest Solar Farm East Of The Rockies
March 25, 20194:22 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Jacob Fenston

The largest solar farm east of the Rocky Mountains could soon be built in Virginia and, depending on whom you ask, it would be either a dangerous eyesore that will destroy the area's rural character or a win-win, boosting the local economy and the environment. The solar panels would be spread across 10 square miles — 1.8 million panels soaking up the sun's rays.

The project is planned for Spotsylvania County, about 60 miles south of Washington, D.C. Amid the county's Civil War battlefields, farms and timberland, a fight is raging over the future of energy in Virginia, and in the Eastern U.S.

The heart of the solar resistance is in a gated community called Fawn Lake, built around a golf course and man-made lake.

Solar has taken off in Virginia over the past five years — the total solar output in the state has increased from just 17 megawatts in 2014 to more than 320 megawatts as of August 2018. A private developer called sPower is behind the 500-megawatt solar project — most of the energy will be sold to Microsoft to power its enormous cloud data centers nearby.


Full article can be found here - https://www.npr.org/2019/03/25/706546214/a-battle-is-raging-over-the-largest-solar-farm-east-of-the-rockies
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First off, it's not a "Solar Farm", that's a friendly sounding benign term coined by the solar industry. The correct term is "Massive Industrial Electrical Power Complex". This is about nothing other than Big Money. Foreign interests in the form of manufacturers and financial investors from China and Germany stand to gain big bucks by screwing up our beautiful and historic Virginia landscapes.

Solar will never significantly contribute to our nations electrical power needs. It only produces the claimed output power under ideal conditions i.e. only during peak daylight hours when it is not cloudy. Zero at night and next to nothing when it is overcast. In the last 12 months, Virginia got twice as much rain as Seattle, Washington, nearly 80 inches of rain compared to Seattle's 35 inches.

I know the Fawn Lake area as I fly over it often in my old trusty old 1958 Cessna 172 Straight Tail. It is mostly heavily forested with mature hardwood trees. Believe me when I say that we are not going to "Save the planet" by committing such stupid acts as cutting down 10 square miles of forest, only to replace it with 10 square miles of glass, and steel filled with toxic chemical compounds.

Worse it now appears that several of the major forest fires started out in California were the result of electrical power transformers blowing up on telephone poles. You won't read about this in the main stream media because it doesn't fit their narrative about the Green New Deal. But numerous eyewitnesses and electrical power employees have reported that the PG&E has difficulty each night trying to match the declining electrical inputs from the California solar complexes as the sun goes down. This load mismatch results in the transformers exploding and showering the dry grass with sparks.

Besides, we have Lake Anna nuclear power plant 30 miles away and is more than adequate to meet all our electrical needs in this regional area.

Remember the first laws of Engineering and Physics are one in the same........ "There is no such thing as a free lunch!".
 
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Solar project threatens historic mansions, landscapes along Rapidan River
By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT
Jul 1, 2019

RACCOON FORD—Before war came, Congressman and secessionist Jeremiah Morton designed three mansions along a few miles of Algonquin Trail in southern Culpeper County. The stately homes withstood armies’ fighting, encampment and occupation during the Civil War, and still stand today. Restored by their owners, they have storied pasts and anchor former plantations near the Rapidan River, named by a Colonial governor for Queen Anne of England. Farmland surrounds the graceful houses—Greenville, Struan and Sumerduck—in an area on the Rapidan that’s mostly untouched by time and steeped in early history, including that of Indians and African-Americans. The countryside also yields many accounts from the War Between the States. “Where else in the country do you have a Civil War laboratory like this? Nothing has changed,” Civil War historian Clark “Bud” Hall said during a visit to the mansions of Algonquin Trail.

Change could be coming, though, as county officials consider allowing a utility-scale solar plant to be built on 807 acres of agriculturally zoned parcels along the rural route.


Full lenghtly article can be found here - https://www.fredericksburg.com/news/local/solar-project-threatens-historic-mansions-landscapes-along-rapidan-river/article_fcdd58ec-2660-5a34-92ea-892895f1d9f3.html

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With Virginia's consumption of some 600 + trillion BTU's of electrical power in 2017, combined with the fact that the "solar constant" maximum is only about 1.36 kW per square meter, the miserable conversion efficiency of solar to electric converters, the number of sunny versus cloudy days, the varying length of the day through the year, a little multiplication and division and finagaling of the numbers will show that Virginia will quickly run out of acreage before it can supply a fraction of its energy needs from solar. Just sayin'...
 
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Reverend Ron

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Not just Civil War history will be lost, but Revolutionary War as well. It was the Marquis de Lafayette's stop here in the Spring of 1781 that earned the hitherto unnamed ford across the Rapidan River its name.

Raccoon Ford was the springboard for the final campaign of the American Revolution. It was here that Lafayette's 1,000 Continentals and 2,000 New York Militia waited for "Mad" Anthony Wayne's Army to join up so that they could then trap British General Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Wayne arrived with and additional 800 Pennsylvania Continentals on June 10th. A few days afterwards William Campbell's force of 1,000 additional Virginia Militia from south western Virginia arrived. With a combined force of over 4,500 men Lafayette now felt confident enough to move and confront Cornwallis at on the Virginia Peninsula, defeating him with the help of the French Navy blockading the Chesapeake Bay.

But hey! What's all that history when its compared to a field of full of "feel good" solar panels.
 

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Cricket Solar pulls permit application for Culpeper Project - Culpeper Star-Exponent (Aug 26, 2019)

Less than three weeks after submitting revised plans for a solar power plant on some 1,600 acres in southern Culpeper County, Cricket Solar LLC has withdrawn the application altogether.

Word came late Monday from McGuire Wood's attorney Ann Neil Cosby of the California company's intent to pull the conditional use permit application it filed Dec. 21, 2018.

"On behalf of Cricket Solar LLC, I am writing to formally withdraw Cricket's Conditional Use Permit application," she wrote in a letter to Culpeper County Planning Commission Director Sam McLearen.

"Cricket has been working diligently over the last few months redesigning the project boundaries to protect wetlands, improve efficiencies, and respond to community concerns related to the project."

The local group, Citizens for Responsible Solar, has increasingly called for the project to be delayed to address neighbors' concerns about natural and historic resources in the area. The proposed site is along Algonquin Trail, near the Rapidan River (RACCOON FORD, VIRGINIA) and Civil War battlefields.

In Monday's letter, Cosby said efforts to respond to community concerns remain ongoing.

"However, at this time, the company believes a withdrawal of the project is necessary in order to ensure that any project proposed represents Cricket's best effort to address community concerns," she stated.

The count Planning Commission hearing on the case, which had been scheduled for Sept. 11, has been canceled, McLearen said.

In a phone call Monday, Cosby referred further questions about the project's future to officials with parent companies, BayWa and Genex Solar company officials did not immediately return a request for comment about the project.
 
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