The rapid relatively unfettered proliferation of solar farms in Virginia is resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of acres of forest and prime farmland, and ironically this is happening disproportionately in the poorest parts of the Commonwealth. It is bad policy to encourage the solar lobby to cut down trees that store carbon in order to build solar farms to avoid the consumption of fossil energy. As a first step to a better policy, amend the VCEA to repeal the DEQ permit by rule requirement so each solar project has to withstand normal environmental reviews like every other construction project. Instead, provide tax incentives to build solar farms in already developed commercial, industrial, and residential areas, including brownfields like old coal surface mines. As another example, there are many thousands of acres of parking lots in shopping malls across the state. These parking lots could be covered with solar panels to shade cars from summer heat and generate energy at the same time.
This is a relevant recent VCU study:https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/murp_capstone/41/