Will Environmental Regs Throttle the Solar Industry?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia environmentalists are coming to grips with the fact that while solar farms may help fight global warming, they’re not always good for the local environment. In the wealthy northern Piedmont, known for its wineries, horse farms and scenic vistas, some residents have complained about the clear-cutting of forest to make way to acres upon acres of solar panels.

“The number-one thing I hear from communities in which we serve is concern about the loss of farms and forests with regard to these projects,” said Dan Holmes, director of state policy for the Piedmont Environmental Council, tells the Virginia Mercury.

A recent Virginia Commonwealth University study found that roughly 8,000 of the 14,000 acres disturbed in Virginia for solar installations were previously forested. The loss of wooded land and the compaction of cropland contribute to run-off and erosion that sets back the effort to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

Legislation hammered out in the General Assembly this year, reports the Mercury, attempts to achieve a balance between protecting the local environment while allowing development of utility-scale solar farms to proceed. Projects affecting more than 50 acres of forested land or 10 acres of prime farmland will have to provide mitigation for those impacts, with the criteria to be worked out in a convening of stakeholders by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Chip Dicks, a lobbyist representing solar developers and renewable energy buyers, worries that the mitigation could be defined so narrowly as to preclude development on prime agricultural and forested lands entirely. That “would basically stop in its tracks most major solar projects in Virginia,” he has said.

“The numbers seem arbitrary. There’s no particular scientific reason why it’s 10 acres and not 20 acres,” said Harry Godfrey, executive director of Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, a trade group representing solar developers.

Imagine that: yet another industry hobbled by totally arbitrary environmental criteria.

Bacon’s bottom line: Congratulations, environmentalists! Your lobbying and lawfare have made it increasingly difficult to develop any kind of energy infrastructure anywhere! You successfully took out the gas pipelines. But your new rules, if applied with anything resembling logical consistency, could potentially cripple the solar industry that would replace natural gas. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the necessity of building electric transmission lines to import electricity from outside the state when the sun isn’t shining, or the eventual disposal of toxic chemicals —  cadmium telluride, copper indium selenide, cadmium gallium (di)selenide, copper indium gallium (di)selenide, hexafluoroethane, lead, and polyvinyl fluoride — found in solar panels!

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


14 responses to “Will Environmental Regs Throttle the Solar Industry?”

  1. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    We have to destroy the environment in order to save the environment.

  2. David Wojick Avatar
    David Wojick

    Solar is a silly expense, so the less the better:

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      It’s a silly and illegitimate argument. The simple reality is if we start out with enough gas plants to power the grid – as we have had , that every solar farm you build allows you to use solar instead of gas when that solar is available and if that solar is cheaper to generate than gas, why in the world would you not do that?

      The opposition is really ignorant.

      1. David Wojick Avatar
        David Wojick

        Because you have to also pay for the gas plants that are idled by the solar. What part of this do you not understand? The total system cost is greater with the solar added, because it is not needed. Two cars cost more than one car.

  3. Maybe a pipeline from Russia and China to deliver solar power generated there to here……

  4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    It can’t be true. The newest green mantra to leverage Vladimir Putin’s war is “The Pathway to Peace is Through Renewables.” I am not making that up.

    What are a few forests compared to world peace? Unless, of course, the solar farms or windmills are within view of rich environmentalists.

    You want to see more war, watch what happens then.

  5. sbostian Avatar

    So far no one has mentioned that large scale solar and wind energy projects are exempt from the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Protection Act. For some reason, radical environmental lobbies have been silent on the issue. I guess some environmental laws are beyond reproach and others can be ignored in favor the the flavor of the month.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Eagle-chopping mountaintop turbines are fine with the so-called environmentalists. Sea bird chopping offshore wind as well.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        more silly hyperbole from the wacadoodle folks:


        WHERE is the “outrage” against cats, cars, and other power plants?

  6. Some environmental advocates resemble gung-ho salespersons: Touting all the benefits of what they’re peddling, focusing only on the positive effects, and keeping silent on any negative effects and necessary trade-offs involved.

  7. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    Chip Dicks and all the other too green lobbyists have had a free ride for too long. Let them face the same regulatory burdens as all other energy. It’s ironic that they are happy to cut down forests which sequester CO2 and farms that feed us. Grifters one and all.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I know Chip Dicks. Chip Dicks is a friend of mine. He doesn’t do that for free. 🙂

      1. William O'Keefe Avatar
        William O’Keefe

        I take your word and realize that he is only doing his job. The Solar Industry is alive and maybe well because of very favorable government treatment.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    There is a simple thing not being recognized and understood by folks who claim to be Conservatives here in BR.

    Here’s the simple thing. A person who owns property can USE that property for legally allowed uses. Conservatives USED to fight those who wanted to restrict property owners from making productive use of their land to support themselves and pay the taxes on it.

    Some land is used to grow trees. A person will own that land and lets those trees grow just like any other crop – and the day will come when that property owner will harvest those trees to generate income to live on perhaps their retirement. After the trees are harvested – clear-cut if you will, that land can still also be used for legally allowed purposes – which can include, farming, residential or commercial development, even a gas power plant OR a solar power plant.

    That’s exactly the way that the 6000+ acre solar farm in Spotsylvania came to be. The owner of the property cut the trees for his income, then sold the land to the Solar Company.

    Anyone driving out that way to see the “devastation” of the clear cut and new solar farm will be sorely disappointed – the entire property is surround by deep woods and vegetative berms.

    It looks no different from the roadway than it had for decades before.

    In the meantime, it generates power for the grid when it is available and it’s power is cheaper than the power from gas so it makes perfect sense to use it when it is available, it means using less gas when it is available.

    Conservatives USED to support property rights and the ability of people to use their property to generate income for their needs as well as to pay taxes to support schools and public safety.

    No more, apparently.

Leave a Reply