Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
Department of Energy
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9/15/22  8:20 pm
Commenter: Claudia Perkins

Environmental Negative Impacts of Solar Sites/Environmental Stewardship

I have grave concerns for the negative environmental impacts of solar sites (They are not farms although some would call them such!). There are thousands if not millions of acres of forest land as well as agricultural land being removed from agricultural and forest use. Removal of forests is in direct conflict with decarbonization efforts.

There are adverse, long-term consequences to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, wetlands, forests, and agricultural lands. I speak from the direct experience of living about 2 and 1/4 miles downstream from a large 1,300+ acre solar site in central Louisa County. The entire site was deforested and stripped off all top soil and undergrowth at once 2 years ago.  No allowance was given to avoid steeply inclined hillsides from deforestation or disturbance. Solar panels were not counted as impervious surfaces in stormwater runoff calculations. The result has been that five farms have had negative impacts on their creek. Our farm has and continues to have severe creek bank damages with continued large bank washouts occurring as well as soil being deposited in the middle of the creek to create huge islands of mud, sand, pebbles around which the creek then has to redirect itself. One washout that began 11/2020 has now extended or grown itself 3 feet further into the pasture and has required 3 times a fence around it be replaced to keep animals from crashing about 6 feet down into the huge washout and breaking a leg. Another area measures 16 feet of land gone in width, 69 feet gone in length, and about 3 feet in height all removed by solar site stormwater runoff since 11/2020.

Even though DEQ has recently determined solar panels need to be counted as  impervious areas to better calculate and control stormwater runoff, they have agreed to delay this going into effect for 2 to 3 years. My concern is what about solar sites being developed in the meantime and the negative effects on the environment. What about the negative effects our farm and the four other area farms continue to experience even with as little as 1 to 1 and 1/2 inch rains which result in a huge, rushing, gushing river of stormwater runoff from the solar site as it moves down our creeks eroding away banks and farm land? Who in the state government can pressure this energy company into correcting their solar site to properly manage stormwater runoff?  Nothing we as a community or even the local Board of Supervisors have been able to do or say has pushed this company to correct these severe runoff issues. Where is environmental stewardship in this issue?

I highly recommend VCEA to repeal the DEQ permit by rule requirement so each solar project has to withstand environmental reviews like every other construction project and that the effects on downstream areas be carefully monitored before, during, and after construction completion of these solar sites. In addition, I highly recommend that DEQ make solar projects begin immediately to count panels as impervious surfaces rather than delay this for 2-3 years in the future. I believe tax incentives need to be provided to build solar sites (again, not solar farms) in already developed commercial, industrial, and residential areas, including brownfields like old coal surface mines. Let us as a state work to preserve our valuable resources of agricultural and forest lands which we know are limited.

CommentID: 128686