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County bans commercial solar projects on residential properties

A ban on commercial solar development on residentially zoned land in the Pahrump Valley goes into effect Jan. 23, after Nye County commissioners unanimously approved the measure earlier this month.

“It’s a very minor amendment to this section of the code,” Nye County Planning Director Brett Waggoner explained during the commission’s Jan. 3 meeting. “This was based off of board direction, when we had a solar applicant in front of us with a proposal for solar on some residential property.”

Consolidated Edison Development, Inc. applied for a zone change in 2022 that would have opened a roughly 100-acre parcel of private land in western Pahrump to commercial solar development.

Commissioners denied that request, however, along with the Special Use Permit required to operate the solar project.

Aside from underscoring the public’s staunch opposition to large-scale solar development in the valley, commissioners’discovered that Nye County Code allowed for commercial solar projects of up to 20 megawatts on land zoned RH 9.5, or rural homestead residential land totaling 9.5 acres or more. This was the only residential zoning with solar as an allowable use and it didn’t take long for the county to bring forward a code amendment to change that, with the public hearing on the matter taking place during the Jan. 3 meeting.

“That is all that is changed in the entire section of the code,” Waggoner emphasized. “The change is in permissive uses, which is (Nye County Code) 17.04.210. It had in there, ‘solar photovoltaic facility, 20 megawatts maximum’ and we just removed that as a permissive use. So it is no longer allowed in any case on residential land.”

Waggoner also made it clear that the code that was being amended only applies to the Pahrump Regional Planning District and in no way restricts residents from having their own, small-scale, private-use solar systems.

Nye County Commissioner Frank Carbone made the motion to adopt the code as amended, with immediate seconds offered by both commissioners Debra Strickland and Donna Cox. The motion passed with all in favor.

The code change goes into effect as of Monday, Jan. 23.

This is the latest action taken by the commission in an attempt to stem the tide of solar project applications coming into the county.

In November 2022, the board also voted unanimously to place a six-month moratorium on all solar development applications, giving the county time to hash through how each individual town feels about the possibility of having photovoltaic solar fields in their communities. In addition, last year the commission added new requirements for commercial-scale solar projects, requiring that they obtain a Special Use Permit and create a development agreement with the county. Each move has been targeted at giving the county the legal standing to prohibit the many commercial solar projects that have been proposed, primarily on Bureau of Land Management lands, over the last two years.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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