This initiative is led by the Weldon Cooper Center’s Center for Economic Policy Studies in order to reduce policy uncertainty at the local level, enhance environmental and social equity outcomes, and provide related support and analysis on land use, economic, and policy matters.
State legislation passed in 2009 and 2012 set the stage for utility-scale development of solar in Virginia. The Solar Energy Development Authority and the Solar Permit by Rule process were established and federal incentives and market forces helped to drive down solar project development costs.
Utility scale solar development began to enter into Virginia’s marketplace in 2016. Local governments, having no experience with solar as a land use, began reaching out for technical assistance as staff, elected officials, and citizens alike began to wrestle with implications of this emerging land use.
Every year since, new state legislation has encouraged the expansion solar and storage development, which in turn has driven the need for technical assistance as localities grapple with a diversity of siting issues related to zoning, land cover, viewsheds, stormwater controls, agricultural impacts, and economic development.
In the fall of 2018 UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute hosted the first ever Virginia Solar Summit. The event helped build new connections between policy interests and local governments seeking resources and best practice guidance.
The Virginia Solar Initiative (VSI) was established in 2019 to meet localities need for unbiased and research-based resources, tools, and guidance. Then, in 2020, the Virginia Solar Initiative teamed up with other UVA projects and initiatives supporting Virginia's clean energy transition to establish the Energy Transition Initiative at UVA.