Solar policy subject of Rivanna River conference

Do you or someone you know have an interest in the connections between how land is used and the water quality of rivers and streams? Tomorrow, an entity called the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC) is putting on its seventh annual conference. 

“The purpose of this conference really is to promote the environmental stewardship and equity of the basin and the region as we transition into more renewable energy sources,” said Isabella O’Brien, environmental planner at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “As well as to provide a forum for local governments, staff, and the public as well to learn more about this growing topic of solar.” 

The conference comes at a time when many localities across rural Virginia are processing utility-scale solar facilities that can take up hundreds of acres. For instance, Albemarle County is currently considering a special use permit for a 650-acre project called Woodridge Solar. 

“Our first speaker is Elizabeth Marshall and she is the program manager for the Weldon Cooper Center’s Solar Initiative,” O’Brien said. “She was the lead on the Virginia Solar Survey where the UVA Weldon Cooper Center reached out to all of the cities and counties across Virginia to learn about their capacity for transitioning into solar energy.”

Marshall will share the results of the survey, which was completed by 109 out of 135 localities across the Commonwealth. O’Brien said using up that much land has effects which can be mitigated, and the discussion will provide best practices. 

“We’re trying to help create the platform to have those conversations so we also have have Lauren Glickman from Encore Renewable Energy coming and their organization really focuses on dual use solar,” O’Brien said. “That includes practices like agrisolar or agrivoltaics where you can use native plants, raising animals, and other practices sort of to amplify the benefits you can see with solar energy rather than clear-cutting.” 

The final speaker is Chad Martin, the environmental justice coordinator for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Blue Ridge Region. 

“He’s coming to speak about the background and the history of the environmental justice and laws surrounding it as well as how its implemented on the county and city level,” O’Brien said. 

Martin will also discuss the White House’s Justice 40 initiative, which seeks to direct 40 percent of federal spending into communities that are “marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.” 

The conference begins at 1 p.m. at the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in Darden Towe Park. There’s also a way to watch virtually. (Facebook page) (Register to attend in-person) (Zoom registration)

The conceptual layout for Woodridge Solar from the project’s first submission to Albemarle County (Credit: Hexagon Energy)

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 September 28, 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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