This initiative is led by the Weldon Cooper Center’s Center for Economic Policy Studies, in partnership with Environmental Resilience Institute, 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. This work is possible through the generosity of the Energy Foundation.
State legislation passed in 2009 and 2012 set the stage for utility-scale development of solar in Virginia. These statutes established the Solar Energy Development Authority and the Solar Permit by Rule process in an effort to incentivize solar energy generation in the Commonwealth. Federal incentives and market forces helped to drive project development costs lower.
In 2016 the solar development community began to enter into Virginia’s marketplace. Local governments, having no experience with utility-scale solar as a land use, began reaching out for technical assistance. Planning and zoning officials, board of supervisor members, farmers and landowners, all began to wrestle with implications of this emerging land use.
State legislation in 2017 and 2018 further refined solar policy and additional need for technical assistance across the state. A diversity of approaches began to emerge through local planning efforts, considering siting issues such diverse issues as zoning, land cover, viewsheds, stormwater controls, agricultural impacts, and economic development.
In the fall of 2018 UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute hosted the first Virginia Solar Summit. The event helped build new connections between policy interests and local governments seeking improved guidance and best practices. The Virginia Solar Initiative was established as a result, and now provides a clearinghouse of reliable information and research that directly informs the discretion of state and local policy-makers.