Definitions and Applicability
The following words and terms when used in this chapter shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Applicant" means the owner or operator who submits an application to the department for a permit by rule pursuant to this chapter.
"Archive search" means a search of DHR's cultural resource inventory for the presence of previously recorded archaeological sites and for architectural structures and districts.
"Coastal Avian Protection Zones" or "CAPZ" means the areas designated on the map of "Coastal Avian Protection Zones" generated on the department's Coastal GEMS geospatial data system (9VAC15-60-120 C 1).
"Concentrating photovoltaics" or "CPV" means PV systems with equipment to focus or direct sunlight on the PV cells. For purposes of this chapter, CPV is included in the definition of PV.
"Department" means the Department of Environmental Quality, its director, or the director's designee.
"DCR" means the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"DGIF" means the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
"DHR" means the Department of Historic Resources.
"Disturbance zone" means the area within the site directly impacted by construction and operation of the solar energy project and within 100 feet of the boundary of the directly impacted area.
"Historic resource" means any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, object, or cultural landscape that is included or meets the criteria necessary for inclusion in the Virginia Landmarks Register pursuant to the authorities of § 10.1-2205 of the Code of Virginia and in accordance with 17VAC5-30-40 through 17VAC5-30-70.
"Integrated PV" means photovoltaics incorporated into building materials, such as shingles.
"Interconnection point" means the point or points where the solar energy project connects to a project substation for transmission to the electrical grid.
"Natural heritage resource" means the habitat of rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species, rare or state significant natural communities or geologic sites, and similar features of scientific interest benefiting the welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
"Operator" means the person responsible for the overall operation and management of a solar energy project.
"Other solar technologies" means materials or devices or methodologies of producing electricity from sunlight other than PV or CPV.
"Owner" means the person who owns all or a portion of a solar energy project.
"Parking lot" means an improved area, usually divided into individual spaces and covered with pavement or gravel, intended for the parking of motor vehicles.
"Permit by rule" means provisions of the regulations stating that a project or activity is deemed to have a permit if it meets the requirements of the provision.
"Person" means any individual, partnership, firm, association, joint venture, public or private corporation, trust, estate, commission, board, public or private institution, utility, cooperative, county, city, town, or other political subdivision of the Commonwealth, any interstate body, or any other legal entity.
"Photovoltaic" or "PV" means materials and devices that absorb sunlight and convert it directly into electricity by semiconductors.
"Photovoltaic cell" or "PV cell" means a solid state device that converts sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells may be connected together to form PV modules, which in turn may be combined and connected to form PV arrays (often called PV panels).
"Photovoltaic system" or "PV system" means PV cells, which may be connected into one or more PV modules or arrays, including any appurtenant wiring, electric connections, mounting hardware, power-conditioning equipment (inverter), and storage batteries.
"Preconstruction" means any time prior to commencing land-clearing operations necessary for the installation of energy-generating structures at the small solar energy project.
"Rated capacity" means the maximum capacity of a solar energy project based on Photovoltaic USA Test Conditions (PVUSA Test Conditions) rating.
"Site" means the area containing a solar energy project that is under common ownership or operating control. Electrical infrastructure and other appurtenant structures up to the interconnection point shall be considered to be within the site.
"Small renewable energy project" means (i) an
electrical generation facility with a rated capacity not exceeding
megawatts that generates electricity only from sunlight , or wind ,;
(ii) an electrical generation facility with a rated capacity not exceeding 100
megawatts that generates electricity only from falling water, wave motion,
tides, or geothermal power; or (ii) (iii) an electrical
generation facility with a rated capacity not exceeding 20 megawatts that
generates electricity only from biomass, energy from waste, or municipal solid
"Small solar energy project," "solar energy
project," or "project" means a small renewable energy project
that (i) generates electricity from sunlight, consisting of one or more PV
systems and other appurtenant structures and facilities within the boundaries
of the site; and (ii) is designed for, or capable of, operation at a rated
capacity equal to or less than
100 150 megawatts. Two or more solar
energy projects otherwise spatially separated but under common ownership or
operational control, which are connected to the electrical grid under a single
interconnection agreement, shall be considered a single solar energy project.
Nothing in this definition shall imply that a permit by rule is required for
the construction of test structures to determine the appropriateness of a site
for the development of a solar energy project.
"T&E," "state threatened or endangered
species," or "state-listed species" means any wildlife species
designated as a Virginia endangered or threatened species by DGIF pursuant to
§ 29.1-563-570 §§ 29.1-563 through 29.1-570 of the Code of
Virginia and 4VAC15-20-130.
"VLR" means the Virginia Landmarks Register (9VAC15-60-120 B 1).
"VLR-eligible" means those historic resources that meet the criteria necessary for inclusion on the VLR pursuant to 17VAC5-30-40 through 17VAC5-30-70 but are not listed in VLR.
"VLR-listed" means those historic resources that have been listed in the VLR in accordance with the criteria of 17VAC5-30-40 through 17VAC5-30-70.
"Wildlife" means wild animals; except, however, that T&E insect species shall only be addressed as part of natural heritage resources and shall not be considered T&E wildlife.
9VAC15-60-20. Authority and applicability.
A. This regulation is issued under authority of Article 5
(§ 10.1-1197.5 et seq.) of Chapter 11.1 of Title 10.1 of the Code of
Virginia. The regulation contains requirements for solar-powered electric
generation projects consisting of PV systems and associated facilities with a
single interconnection to the electrical grid that are designed for, or capable
of, operation at a rated capacity equal to or less than
B. The department has determined that a permit by rule is required for small solar energy projects with a rated capacity greater than five megawatts and a disturbance zone greater than 10 acres, provided that the projects do not otherwise meet the criteria for Part III (9VAC15-60-130) of this chapter, and this regulation contains the permit by rule provisions for these projects in Part II (9VAC15-60-30 et seq.) of this chapter.
C. The department has determined that different provisions
should apply to projects that meet the criteria as set forth in Part III
(9VAC15-60-130) of this chapter, and this regulation contains the requirements,
if any, for these projects in Part III (9VAC15-60-130 A and
B) of this chapter. Projects that meet the criteria for Part III of this
chapter are deemed to be covered by the permit by rule.
D. The department has determined that small renewable energy
projects utilizing other solar technologies shall fulfill all of the
requirements in 9VAC15-40 as prescribed for small wind energy projects, unless
(i) the owner or operator of the proposed project presents to the department
information indicating that the other solar technology presents no greater
likelihood of significant adverse impacts to natural resources than does PV
technology and (ii) the department determines that it is appropriate for the
proposed project utilizing the other solar technology to meet the requirements
of this chapter or of some modification to either 9VAC15-40 or
this chapter, as prescribed by the department for that particular
Permit by Rule Provisions
9VAC15-60-30. Application for permit by rule for solar energy projects with rated capacity greater than five megawatts and disturbance zone greater than 10 acres.
A. The owner or operator of a small solar energy project with a rated capacity greater than five megawatts and a disturbance zone greater than 10 acres, provided that the project does not otherwise meet the criteria for Part III (9VAC15-60-130 A or B) of this chapter, shall submit to the department a complete application in which he satisfactorily accomplishes all of the following:
1. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 1 of the Code of Virginia, and as early in the project development process as practicable, furnishes to the department a notice of intent, to be published in the Virginia Register, that he intends to submit the necessary documentation for a permit by rule for a small renewable energy project;
2. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 2 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department a certification by the governing body of the locality or localities wherein the small renewable energy project will be located that the project complies with all applicable land use ordinances;
3. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 3 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department copies of all interconnection studies undertaken by the regional transmission organization or transmission owner, or both, on behalf of the small renewable energy project;
4. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 4 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department a copy of the final interconnection agreement between the small renewable energy project and the regional transmission organization or transmission owner indicating that the connection of the small renewable energy project will not cause a reliability problem for the system. If the final agreement is not available, the most recent interconnection study shall be sufficient for the purposes of this section. When a final interconnection agreement is complete, it shall be provided to the department. The department shall forward a copy of the agreement or study to the State Corporation Commission;
5. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 5 of the Code of
Virginia, furnishes to the department a certification signed by a professional
engineer licensed in Virginia that the maximum generation capacity of the small
solar energy project, as designed, does not exceed
6. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 6 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department an analysis of potential environmental impacts of the small renewable energy project's operations on attainment of national ambient air quality standards;
7. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 7 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department, where relevant, an analysis of the beneficial and adverse impacts of the proposed project on natural resources. The owner or operator shall perform the analyses prescribed in 9VAC15-60-40. For wildlife, that analysis shall be based on information on the presence, activity, and migratory behavior of wildlife to be collected at the site for a period of time dictated by the site conditions and biology of the wildlife being studied, not exceeding 12 months;
8. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 8 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department a mitigation plan pursuant to 9VAC15-60-60 that details reasonable actions to be taken by the owner or operator to avoid, minimize, or otherwise mitigate such impacts, and to measure the efficacy of those actions; provided, however, that the provisions of this subdivision shall only be required if the department determines, pursuant to 9VAC15-60-50, that the information collected pursuant to § 10.1-1197.6 B 7 of the Code of Virginia and 9VAC15-60-40 indicates that significant adverse impacts to wildlife or historic resources are likely. The mitigation plan shall be an addendum to the operating plan of the solar energy project, and the owner or operator shall implement the mitigation plan as deemed complete and adequate by the department. The mitigation plan shall be an enforceable part of the permit by rule;
9. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 9 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department a certification signed by a professional engineer licensed in Virginia that the project is designed in accordance with 9VAC15-60-80;
10. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 10 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department an operating plan that includes a description of how the project will be operated in compliance with its mitigation plan, if such a mitigation plan is required pursuant to 9VAC15-60-50;
11. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 11 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department a detailed site plan meeting the requirements of 9VAC15-60-70;
12. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 12 of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department a certification signed by the applicant that the small solar energy project has applied for or obtained all necessary environmental permits;
13. In accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 H and I of the Code of Virginia, furnishes to the department a certification signed by the applicant that the small solar energy project is being proposed, developed, constructed, or purchased by a person that is not a utility regulated pursuant to Title 56 of the Code of Virginia or provides certification that (i) the project's costs are not recovered from Virginia jurisdictional customers under base rates, a fuel factor charge, or a rate adjustment clause, or (ii) the applicant is a utility aggregation cooperative formed under Article 2 (§ 56-231.38 et seq.) of Chapter 9.1 of Title 56 of the Code of Virginia.
14. Prior to authorization of the project and in accordance with § 10.1-1197.6 B 13 and B 14 of the Code of Virginia, conducts a 30-day public review and comment period and holds a public meeting pursuant to 9VAC15-60-90. The public meeting shall be held in the locality or, if the project is located in more than one locality, in a place proximate to the location of the proposed project. Following the public meeting and public comment period, the applicant shall prepare a report summarizing the issues raised by the public and include any written comments received and the applicant's response to those comments. The report shall be provided to the department as part of this application; and
14. 15. In accordance with 9VAC15-60-110,
furnishes to the department the appropriate fee.
B. Within 90 days of receiving all of the required documents and fees listed in subsection A of this section, the department shall determine, after consultation with other agencies in the Secretariat of Natural Resources, whether the application is complete and whether it adequately meets the requirements of this chapter pursuant to § 10.1-1197.7 A of the Code of Virginia.
1. If the department determines that the application meets the requirements of this chapter, then the department shall notify the applicant in writing that he is authorized to construct and operate a small solar energy project pursuant to this chapter.
2. If the department determines that the application does not meet the requirements of this chapter, then the department shall notify the applicant in writing and specify the deficiencies.
3. If the applicant chooses to correct deficiencies in a previously submitted application, the department shall follow the procedures of this subsection and notify the applicant whether the revised application meets the requirements of this chapter within 60 days of receiving the revised application.
4. Any case decision by the department pursuant to this subsection shall be subject to the process and appeal provisions of the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq. of the Code of Virginia).
9VAC15-60-110. Fees for projects subject to Part II of this chapter.
A. Purpose. The purpose of this section is to establish schedules and procedures pertaining to the payment and collection of fees from any applicant seeking a new permit by rule or a modification to an existing permit by rule for a small solar energy project subject to Part II (9VAC15-60-30 et seq.) of this chapter.
B. Permit fee payment and deposit. Fees for permit by rule applications or modifications shall be paid by the applicant as follows:
1. Due date. All permit application fees or modification fees are due on submittal day of the application or modification package.
2. Method of payment. Fees shall be paid by check, draft, or postal money order made payable to "Treasurer of Virginia/DEQ" and shall be sent to the Department of Environmental Quality, Receipts Control, P.O. Box 1104, Richmond, VA 23218.
3. Incomplete payments. All incomplete payments shall be deemed nonpayments.
4. Late payment. No application or modification submittal will be deemed complete until the department receives proper payment.
C. Fee schedules. Each application for a permit by rule and each application for a modification of a permit by rule is a separate action and shall be assessed a separate fee. The amount of the permit application fee is based on the costs associated with the permitting program required by this chapter. The fee schedules are shown in the following table:
Type of Action
Permit by rule application by rated capacity:
>5 MW up to and including 25 MW
>25 MW up to and including 50 MW
>50 MW up to and including 75 MW
>75 MW up to and including
Permit by rule modification for any project subject to Part II of this chapter
D. Use of fees. Fees are assessed for the purpose of defraying
the department's costs of administering and enforcing the provisions of this
, but not limited to, permit by rule processing, permit
by rule modification processing, and inspection and monitoring of small solar
energy projects to ensure compliance with this chapter. Fees collected pursuant
to this section shall be used for the administrative and enforcement purposes
specified in this chapter and in § 10.1-1197.6 E of the Code of Virginia.
E. Fund. The fees, received by the department in accordance with this chapter, shall be deposited in the Small Renewable Energy Project Fee Fund.
F. Periodic review of fees. Beginning July 1, 2013, and periodically thereafter, the department shall review the schedule of fees established pursuant to this section to ensure that the total fees collected are sufficient to cover 100% of the department's direct costs associated with use of the fees.