February 5th, 2018 By SolUnesco

Last Tuesday, the Solar Industry’s regional association (MD, DC, DE & VA Solar Energy Industry Association – MDV-SEIA) hosted a Meet and Greet at the Virginia Credit Union League in Richmond, VA. The event provided opportunities for Virginia legislators to get to know the local solar industry and learn more about solar energy legislation that we supported.

The event highlighted several Bills which were the result of a two-year mediated process called the Rubin Solar Workgroup[1].  For the last two years, our CEO Francis Hodsoll has represented the overall solar business interests with a focus on the utility-scale market segment. The Solar Industry is also represented by David Murray, Executive Director of MDV-SEIA and Scott Thomasson, Southeast Director of Vote Solar.

At the event, SolUnesco was able to engage with Delegate Keam and Senator Edwards about their respective bills. Delegate Keam had previously pushed for 10,000 MW to be in the Public Interest, but he seemed satisfied with 4,500. He discussed the “shoot for the moon, land in the stars” strategy to solar legislation.  Also, in attendance were, Senator Mardsen and Delegate Reed, as well as staff from Senator Vogel, Delegate Tran, and Senator Surovell.

SolUnesco and other industry representatives highlighted the following Bills.

Delegate Keith Hodges (HB 509) and Senator Bill Stanley (SB 179) are the Patrons for legislation that clarifies the process for determining if a solar project is consistent with the goals and objectives of a county’s comprehensive plan. This legislation lists criteria that, if met, would make a solar facility substantially in accord with a locality’s comprehensive plan. This would set a statewide standard for making such a decision, eliminating confusion and uncertainty at the local level. A recent amendment clarifies that localities maintain the right to conduct separate hearings for the local permit and the determination of Substantially in Accord with the Comprehensive Plan.

Delegate Keith Hodges (HB 508) and Senator Bill Stanley (SB 429) are also Patrons for legislation that confirms the rights to install solar electricity system at a host property – roof of existing structure or ground mounted – to serve the host site’s electrical demand. The bills recognize that solar systems located at a host property are accessory use equipment and hence should not require a separate zoning action. The legislation requires that property owners comply with height and setback requirements and comply with any provisions pertaining to any local historic, architectural preservation, or corridor protection. Localities maintain the right to create an ordinance for ground mounted systems, but behind the meter rooftop systems are a By Right use.

Delegate Tim Hugo (HB 1215) and Senator Richard Saslaw (SB 284)  are the Patrons for legislation that states that an additional 4,000 MW of utility-scale solar and 500 MW of distributed generation solar is in the public interest if operational by 1/1/2023. This bill would yield many economic benefits such as: creating rural construction jobs, tax revenue for local governments, fuel diversity, and direct investment from public utilities. On January 31st, HB 1215 has since been incorporated into HB 1558, which is reported as a substitute.

As a gathering of solar professionals across all of Virginia, the event provided an opportunity for attendees to address the dynamics in the industry and make new friends.  Once the Delegates left, SolUnesco and other developers took the opportunity to break into smaller groups and brainstorm solutions to certain industry hurdles.

SolUnesco strongly supports MDV-SEIA and its advocacy and general representation of the industry.

[1] The Rubin Group provides for a mediated process amongst a broad group of stakeholders: the electric utilities, the solar industry, business, environmental and the rate payer.  The Rubin Group seeks to develop consensus policy through an intensive process of engagement and analysis.