It’s an issue that may be a few years away, but Bedford County Planning Commission director Donald Schwartz is urging commission members to get ready for the arrival of solar farms — big ones.
At the commission’s monthly meeting, held Wednesday morning via Zoom, Schwartz told commission members that he and senior planner Rick Suder took part in a Penn State webinar, “Grid Scale Solar Energy — Ordinance Considerations” via videoconference on Sept. 30.
Schwartz warned that the size of the solar energy farms that may be coming will take people by surprise.
“You could be looking at a square mile of solar panels,” he said.
That’s not farfetched.
The biggest U.S. solar farm, Solar Star, in Kern and Los Angeles counties in southern California, has 1.7 million solar panels arrayed over 13 square kilometers, or 3,200 acres. That’s about 142 football fields.
Some of the concerns, Schwartz said, are aesthetics, the life expectancy of a project and what happens when it becomes time for decommissioning.
“What happens when it rains?” Schwartz asked. “What comes off of those panels?”
He stressed that at this point, it’s a matter of looking down the road.
“We’re not going to tell anybody what to do,” he said, pointing out that those decisions would be left up to the municipalities.
“But without some type of control, in the form of ordinances, anything could happen,” he said.
But, he told the panel, the issue is sure to come up, given the nationwide push for clean energy.
“It can be done,” he said. “It will have a major impact locally.”
Among other topics discussed, Schwartz reported that the Bedford County commissioners have forwarded to the planning commission their rankings of Transportation Improvement Project requests for 2023.
Heading the list for local bridges are one on Pine Hill Road in South Woodbury Township; Hammer Road in Napier Township; Sweet Root Road in Bedford Township and a package of Yellow Creek Drive in Hopewell Township, Hazen Road in Cumberland Valley Township, Pigeon Hill Road in East St. Clair Township and Polecat Hollow Road in Hopewell Township that would be bid as one bundle.
The only ranked state-owned bridge was on Route 868, Potter Creek Road, in Bloomfield Township.
Heading the list of priorities for highway improvements are Route 2019, Lutzville Road curve at the Juniata Woolen Mill in Snake Spring Township; Route 4019, Imler Valley Roand and Sarah Furnace Road widening in King Township; and Main Street, fixing poor conditions and washouts, in Woodbury Borough.
Schwartz also reported on an Oct. 14 Zoom videoconference of the Bedford County Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
The good news, Schwartz reported, was that John Wood, solid waste consultant for Barton & Loguidice, told the meeting that the total waste being generated in the three counties, will leave plenty of capacity for the 10-year planning period.
The recycling outlook is less encouraging, and Schwartz said that “without some financial support it’s very likely that some of these sites will have to be shut down.”
It was noted that no municipalities are mandated to recycle, and none is expected to meet the population thresholds in the next 10 years.
It was noted that the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission has formed a nonprofit “umbrella” organization to implement the findings of the commission’s broadband survey. The first meeting of Alleghenies Broadband Inc. was held Oct. 14.
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the county planning commission will next meet via Zoom on Nov. 18.