We aim to leverage the world-class research, expertise, and resources of the University of Virginia and deliver strategic and technical assistance to localities in order to reduce policy uncertainty related to the siting of renewable energy facilities in Virginia.
Get informed on the state and federal policies that set the context for the current solar conversation in Virginia.
Find out about current research, maps, tools, and studies that will help answer your solar siting concerns.
Explore the current state of solar power in Virginia with an overview of the history and relevant data, maps and trends.
Why Virginia, Why Solar, Why Now?
Since 2015 Virginia has been experiencing exponential growth in the number and size of solar projects proposed and approved. Recent legislation, financial incentives, and economic conditions all contribute to this trend. This surge in demand brings new questions and complex and unique policy challenges. As such, the focus of this program is to help policy-makers navigate the solar landscape, conduct research, and share best practices related to the siting of utility-scale solar facilities.
The future of solar in Virginia is guided by recent policy actions, as written in the Governor’s Executive Order 43 and supported by the Virginia Energy Plan.
SB-966 was signed into law in March 2018 and set the stage for the increased interest in solar energy production. It increased the amount of capacity that was deemed in the public interest from 50 MW to 5,000 MW (5 GW), as well as established renewable energy portfolio standards for public utilities.
Executive Order 43, signed in September 2019, builds on SB 966 by recognizing the need to mitigate climate change by transitioning to a modern electric grid that is dominated by clean energy. It establishes ambitious performance mandates: to produce 30% of Virginia’s electricity from renewables by 2030 and 100% from carbon-free sources by 2050.
The Virginia Energy Plan, which is updated annually, provides data and analysis on the current energy system, as well as recommendations for policy and programs related to energy generation, transmission, distribution, consumption, grid modernization, and the siting of resources and facilities. The latest version of The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Energy Plan was issued in 2018; it explicitly cites SB 966 in its recommendation to grow utility-scale, investor-owned renewable utilities by at least 500 MW per year. The Energy Plan also recommends additional resources be applied to identifying the best ways to approach renewable energy facility siting.
Furthermore, the economics and low cost of utility-scale solar make it the fastest growing segment of energy generation with vast potential to grow. It is widely recognized as a low carbon, affordable energy option, and there is high interest in developing generation and storage technologies to continue to reduce the cost and reliability associated with it.
State-wide economic development efforts have brought large corporate employers such as Amazon and Microsoft to Virginia, and with that comes their portfolio demands for clean energy and access to renewable energy purchasing options.
Finally, economic incentives, such as the state-mandated Machine & Tool tax which provide certain tax exemptions for projects up to 150 MW, reduces the tax liability developers and owners face, thereby incentivizing the development of solar projects.
Combined, these forces have positioned Virginia’s agencies and localities to be at the forefront of responding to a booming demand for solar energy. However, there are many challenges and opportunities associated with this responsibility. The Weldon Cooper Center and its partner at UVA, Environmental Resilience Institute, are leading the way by bringing together stakeholders, facilitating critical conversations, and developing key research initiatives and tools to help decision-makers implement the economic, social, land use, and environmental policies that will enable Virginia’s clean energy future.