Utility-scale solar is not green energy. As landowners in rural Buckingham County, VA, we are grappling with greedy solar developers who are wooing county politicians with a revenue stream— in return for land that has been forested for generations. Of immense concern is the environmental disaster that is inevitable when trees are removed from 2,000 acres of agricultural-zoned land, the vegetation is hit with chemicals, and the natural undulations of the earth must be leveled to install solar arrays that are nearly the length of football fields. This is not a green-energy solution, nor does it meet the job creation objective – this destructive project only promises the creation of four permanent jobs.
The hundreds of thousands of solar panels in the Buckingham County utility-scale solar project are impervious, compounding storm-water runoff. The affected streams and creeks surrounding the project feed directly into the James River which is roughly a quarter mile from the boundaries of the proposed industrial solar power plant. Run-off during the construction phase of the project threatens to fill the Little George Creek that runs through the project area and feeds directly into the James River with sediment.
In addition, the delicate ecosystems will be destroyed and replaced with hundreds of thousands of galvanized steel pilings, changing the nature and character of the land for the duration of the 40-year lease. Recent research also suggests damaged or obsolete solar panels are too expensive to recycle and are ending up in landfills, another threat to the environment.
Utility-scale solar projects fail to address the impact on shallow water wells adjacent to the project areas. Pile-driving during construction causes seismic vibrations, especially given the enormous scale of Utility scale solar. Seismic vibrations can cause liquefaction. Liquefaction takes place when loosely packed, water-logged sediments at or near the ground surface lose their strength in response to strong ground shaking. Shallow residential wells located near solar projects are at risk for collapse.
Solar is only a clean energy solution when sited in industrial areas or on rooftops, and not when forever changing the character of agricultural land. Please consider the impact on the agricultural and forested land and Virginia rivers and streams when developing Virginia’s 2022 Energy Plan.