As a follow up to last week’s post about the proposed rules that would limit the development of solar PV on certain high-value farmland in Oregon, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development issued its staff report on the proposed rules.  The staff report provides an overview of the rationale for the proposed changes and clarification on several key issues, including:

  • Continued availability of Statewide Planning Goal exceptions. The staff report confirms that, if the rules are adopted, project developers may still pursue development on Class I, Class II, Prime, and Unique soils by seeking an Exception to the Statewide Planning Goal 3 (Agricultural Lands).  Although this is not a practicable permitting pathway in most instances, the Exception option nonetheless remains.
  • Treatment of tracts composed of a mix of Class I or II, Prime or Unique soils and “other” soils. The staff report confirms that a county could approve a conditional use permit for a solar PV facility on a tract of land that contains Class I or II, Prime, or Unique soils on the portion of the tract that contains other soils.  DLCD staff provided the following example in an email to the rulemaking list serve:  “If an 80-acre tract includes 50 acres of class I, II, prime or unique soils and 30 acres of other soil types, those 30 acres of other soil types remain eligible for a conditional use application for commercial solar development.”
  • Application of rule to solar PV powering onsite facilities. The staff report clarifies that the new limitations only apply to “commercial utility facilities” and not to solar installations that power onsite facilities such as agricultural buildings or electric fences.

The staff report also contains a case study prepared by DLCD staff that is designed to highlight the effect of the proposed limitation related to Class I or II, Prime or Unique soils.  The case study (Attachment E to the staff report) provides several example tracts in Marion County that contain 12 acres or more of high-value farmland that is not Class I or II, Prime or Unique (and thus eligible for solar PV siting without a Statewide Planning Goal Exception).  The case study also includes an overview map showing the mix of Class I or II, Prime or Unique soils and “other” high-value farmland in that area of Marion County.

As we noted previously, DLCD is currently accepting comments and will hold a public hearing in Salem on January 24.  The agenda is available here.