Smoothing the Path to Solar

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Solar panels with poppies in front
January 8, 2021

Primary Author: Kevin Woram, a PhD Intern who worked as a member of the Virginia Solar Initiative at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Advisor: Elizabeth Marshall served as his advisor for this paper.

 

This report offers case study observations that could be informative in efforts to create a more predictable, efficient, and expedient permitting process for utility-scale solar facility construction in Virginia. From examining the 12 case studies, this report finds two major impediments to solar permitting. It finds that, for projects seeking a permit-by-rule (PBR), there is a long gap in the overall permitting process between obtaining local and state permits: this step usually takes over a year. This gap appears to be caused by a lack of common standards for state and local permitting processes, which complicates the application process for developers. This study also finds that, in the local permitting process, there is very little time for the public, developers, and local governments to come together and discuss project proposals. Public discussion of proposed projects often occurs only during public hearings. Moreover, directly after the public hearing local governments decide to approve or disapprove of proposals. Reforms to these two areas of the permitting process might benefit all stakeholders in solar development.

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