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“Utility-scale” refers to solar energy generation facilities that contribute electricity directly into the power grid, just as conventional energy plants do. These sites are ground mounted and range from 50 to multiple thousands of acres in size.

Local contractors will have the opportunity to bid on these projects and we always seek to hire local qualified personnel. Local businesses will likely experience increased revenue during the construction. Further, these projects put money in local landowners’ pockets who may spend locally.

While a majority of solar projects have sold directly to corporate buyers resulting in zero impact for the general public, Utilities are procuring solar energy because they have found it to be in the best interest of their ratepayer.

Large-scale solar power plants provide energy to the wholesale grid and are not directly connected to the nearby homes. Depending on electrical grid’s configuration, the energy generated by the solar facility may be power nearby homes and businesses (solar electrons travel the path of least resistance, the same as electrons from any other power plant).

The project will typically sell the electricity either to an electric utility or one of many large companies who are purchasing their electricity directly from solar farms. 

The project owner will be contractually obligated to remove all structures and equipment (like pulling fence posts) and the land can be easily and quickly returned to previous use.

Solar farms increase a county’s revenue from taxes and fees, while placing minimal to no impact on the county’s services.

Solar Myths

Solar panels are generally composed of commonly used building materials, such as glass, polymer, aluminum, copper, and semiconductor materials. Panels are constructed to last through all kinds of weather events, including wind, hail and thunderstorms. It takes a substantial amount of force to even crack the face of a solar panel. However, if such an event occurred, and if any material leaked from a panel, it poses no threat of soil or water table contamination. Virtually all of the material used in a solar panel can be recycled at the end of a panel’s life and are in solid form, unreactive, and embedded into the panels during manufacturing—meaning they can’t leach out. The significant and long-term environmental and public health benefits include reducing carbon-based energy and helping mitigate climate change.

Solar projects require rigorous and extensive permitting, which include meeting environmental standards for protecting wetlands, ground water and other water sources. Wetlands, bottomlands, and perennial tributaries will remain undeveloped on the site, allowing for free and unrestricted movement of wildlife throughout the site and undisturbed habitats. Higher elevation areas converted to grassland will provide valuable foraging grounds or new habitat opportunities. Increased populations of pollinators is a common result of limiting fertilizer and pesticide application and allowing wildflower density to increase.

Solar facilities produce negligible noise only during daylight hours, require very infrequent maintenance visits, zero water or fuel consumption for operations, and provide carefully planned viewsheds from roads and neighbors. Solar construction often includes clearing trash and debris, building new access roads, and otherwise contributing to the aesthetic of the surrounding area.

Solar facilities preserve landscape buffers and protect land from potentially less desirable uses. Solar facilities are quiet, produce zero emissions, have low profiles, and safeguard neighbors’ views. Solar facilities preserve trees and vegetation and provide new planting of vegetation where appropriate. Some projects involve removing trash and repairing viewsheds, thereby significantly improving the aesthetic quality of the neighborhood. Richland Appraisals has conducted a study on the impact of the Randolph Solar Project on surrounding land values. You can view the full report here.

The United States first deployed solar photovoltaic technology in the 1950’s. There is much research from top institutions and universities on solar safety, material components, impact, and environmental benefits. Click here for links to studies and papers here.

A utility-scale solar facility contributes to local tax revenue and local industry, in addition to creating jobs, improving land values, and helping reduce energy costs. Increasing the state’s solar capacity is attracting big tech data centers, which bring more jobs and economic output.

The solar industry is providing opportunities to local contractors to bid on these projects and has implemented the SHINE program to train local residents for jobs in the solar industry. Local businesses will experience increased revenue during the construction. Further, these projects put money in local landowners’ pockets who may spend locally. Click here for more information about local jobs on the SHINE website.

The majority of solar projects in Virginia have sold their energy to corporate buyers meaning no impact to the general rate payer. Utilities have procured solar energy because they have found it to be in the best interest of their ratepayer.

The project owner will be contractually obligated to remove all structures and equipment (like pulling fence posts) and the land can be easily and quickly returned to previous use. See the Decommissioning section in the Click here for more information on decommissioning on our About the Project page.

One of the most widely respected annual energy research studies, Lazard has consistently found solar to be lower cost than non-renewable energy when comparing apples to apples by removing all subsidies from all forms of electric generation. In fact, leading researchers have consistently found that the subsidies for non-renewable energy dwarf those incentives provided to solar and other renewable energy sources.

Solar Resources

Third Party Research Papers

Solar and the Environment
Solar Policy and the Economy

Renewable Energy Legislation

Blogs & Other Information

Reports

  • Virginia Counties Setbacks and Buffers Report: SolUnesco keeps a database that tracks utility-scale solar permitting requirements in county ordinances, and approved solar projects, throughout Virginia. We used this data to compile a comprehensive report comparing the Virginia counties’ ordinance language in regards to solar, and approved solar project conditions, focusing on setback and buffer requirements. You will also find graphs that help showcase the patterns found throughout Virginia’s counties. For example, 81% of the county ordinances setbacks to property lines require 75 feet or less, and 86% of the buffer requirements are 25 feet or less, or are not specified. SolUnesco has submitted this report to the Charlotte County Administrators, Planning Commissioners, and Board of Supervisors as a way for them to easily view what else is occurring with solar in Virginia.

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