Utility-scale solar facilities will impact rural Virginia and Virginians in many detrimental, irreversible ways, including:
-Disproportionate impacts to rural communities
-Adverse, long-term consequences to wetlands, streams, creeks, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
-Loss of forests, farms, and natural resources
-Displacement of Virginia’s wildlife and loss of habitat
-Removal of hundreds of thousands of acres of timber from agricultural and recreational use
-Loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, farm and soil that is in direct conflict with decarbonization efforts
-Degradation of rural quality of life
-Harms from living through construction of massive industrial solar facilities
-Dangers on roads from thousands of truck deliveries and worker’s vehicles on rural roads
-A decrease in surrounding property values caused by the wrongful siting of utility-scale operations in agricultural and residential rural areas
-Lack of long-term job creation / net loss of jobs compared to current land use
-Imperilment to threatened and endangered species
-Need for more in depth and accurate environmental studies prior to permitting
-Need for more in depth wildlife studies prior to permitting
The Virginia DEQ has determined that current regulations are inadequate to protect the environment. Will the new regulations that consider the solar panels to be impervious structures be able to protect the environment?
-What will prevent soil eroding into streams and bodies of water?
-What will prevent soil erosion and damage of adjacent lands?
-What Best Management Practices will be used to protect the threatened and endangered species imperiled by construction and operation of utility-scale solar facilities?
Solar projects in residential, agricultural, ecological-sensitive, and rural areas should not be permitted. Instead, low-conflict sites – such as brownfields, closed landfills, current and former industrial sites, parking lots, and commercial structures – should be identified and prioritized. Additionally, renewable energy companies must respect local zoning laws and protect natural resources including wetlands and forests, wildlife, agricultural lands, rural view sheds, property values, and community values.
As renewable energy companies look to Virginia as a potential site for utility-scale solar power installations, there must be a strategic, state-wide approach and metric for siting of utility-scaled renewable energy installations in place before advancing projects of such a massive scale. With such an approach and metric, we can avoid our agriculture, residential and rural-centric counties from becoming a patchwork of industrial-sized solar installations and the detrimental impacts they will have on area residents, local economies, natural resources and scenic view sheds.
In closing, the government should take immediate action to preserve and protect Virginia’s soils, farm operations, forests, natural resources, wildlife, scenic view sheds, and recreation. Please work to protect the character of our rural communities and Virginia’s resources from being degraded by wrongly-sited, wrongly-sized industrial solar facilities.