Statement on Utility-Scale Solar


Utility-scale solar facilities in the right place are a necessary and important variable for Virginia to achieve a future with clean energy.

1.3MW Solar Array on Landfill in Rehoboth, MA. Photo by Lucas Faria, US Department of Energy

In 2020, the General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), setting a goal to make Virginia’s energy economy carbon-free by 2050 and establish a 16,100 MW goal for energy generation from solar and onshore wind.1 As of August 2023, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had solar permits and applications expected to cover 86,650 acres supplying 7,542.2 MW.2

We must encourage the siting of solar facilities on already impacted sites such as mined lands, brownfields (properties where potential hazards complicate redevelopment), and residential and commercial facilities.

All sites must employ best management practices including natural community and rare species protections, use of native vegetation, reduction in soil compaction and grading, state-of-the-art stormwater calculations, and erosion and stormwater runoff controls.

Local governments have the greatest authority to regulate new solar facilities. Unfortunately, many facilities are being located in rural localities least equipped to properly plan for them due to overworked small staffs and citizens that can least afford the environmental degradation.

Solar facilities have an approximately 30 year life span. Many developers include the value of reclaimed materials as part of their clean-up bond, when in reality they may have no value at all. As of July 2022, the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service found just over 25% of the state’s 133 counties and cities have decommissioning requirements in a zoning ordinance.3


  • Loss of valuable natural communities, rare species and natural areas, prime forest and farmland. Meeting the goal of 16,100 MW will require some 161,000 acres of land at the general rule of 10 acres needed for every 1 MW of solar electricity, or 185,000 acres extrapolating from the current DEQ data set.2
  • Negative water quality impacts – need for greater erosion and sediment control and stormwater management requirements, compliance assistance and enforcement.
  • Insufficient funds allocated to assure proper cleanup after damage or project end-of-life.
  • Environmental justice violations due to sitings in rural underserved locations.

What You Can Do

  • Advocate for local governments to require natural community/rare species review and surveys through contact and engagement with the Department of Conservation and Recreation Natural Heritage Program:
  • Advocate for local governments to require enrollment in the DEQ Virginia Pollinator Smart Program:
  • Advocate for solar facility development on mined lands, brownfields, and existing residential and commercial facilities.
  • Minimize impacts to prime forest and farm lands. The Nature Conservancy, Solar Siting in Virginia:
  • Advocate for projects to use state-of-the-art best management practices for erosion and sediment control, stormwater runoff, and minimize grading and soil compaction.4
  • Advocate for your locality to adopt continually improving solar development requirements: “In Virginia, the permitting and siting of solar energy and energy storage facilities is heavily informed by local governments. Therefore, to realize the full potential of solar energy development in Virginia, it is important to understand and support the solar experience, concerns and priorities of local governments.”5


1 Virginia Legislative Information System HB1526, Electric utility regulation; environmental goals.

2 Renewable Energy Permit Database, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

3 Cox, I. 2020. Decommissioning Utility-Scale Solar Facilities Financial Best Practices for Virginia Localities. University of Virginia, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

4 Rolband, M. 2023. Best Management Practices to Minimize Impacts of Solar Farms on Landscape Hydrology and Water Quality, Presentation. Chesapeake Bay Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee.

5 Hearne, C. A Berrynill, E. Marshall. 2022. Virginia Solar Survey Results and Initial Findings. Virginia Department of Energy and the Virginia Solar Initiative at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service—University of Virginia. (

University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Energy Transition Initiative. Resources.

Adopted by the VNPS Board of Directors January 16, 2024

1 Comment

  1. VNPS Communications on February 12, 2024 at 9:28 am

    Proposed Bill SB697 in the 2024 Virginia Legislature would prevent localities from passing ordinances that ban development of solar projects within their boundaries. The bill passed out of committee last week.