Survey released on solar rules across Virginia localities

In six years, the amount of electricity generated by solar panels in increased by 12,150 percent. That’s according to data cited in the first ever survey of Virginia localities on their policies related to permitting large utility-scale installations as well as rooftop panels. 

The survey was conducted by the Virginia Department of Energy and the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia and asked a series of questions to officials in Virginia’s 133 localities. 

“In Virginia, the permitting and siting of solar energy and energy storage facilities is heavily informed by local governments,” reads the report. “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.”

One hundred and nine localities responded to the survey, which was conducted a year after the General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act which among other things mandates that Virginia’s largest two investor-owned utilities be 100 percent carbon free by 2050. 

“The VCEA also deems 16,100 megawatts (MW) of solar and onshore wind to be in the public interest, greatly reducing the barriers for project approval with the State Corporation Commission,” the report continues.

The survey is intended to help inform policy across Virginia, given that localities set the detailed rules for siting and zoning of solar facilities. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electricity generated through solar in Virginia increased from 30 megawatts in 2015 to 3,675 megawatts in 2021.

Smaller installations on homes and businesses are called “distributed” solar projects. That number has risen from 948 net-metering installations in 2011 to 26,237 in 2021. 

Read the rest of study to learn more about how different Virginia localities regulate solar.

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the April 26, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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