By Francis Hodsoll, CEO SolUnesco

With House Bill 206, the Virginia House of Delegates determined disturbing 10 acres of farmland or fifty acres of forestland constitutes a “significant adverse impact.” As a Virginia Utility-scale developer, I am confident that HB 206 – as passed out of the House – will place a moratorium on Utility-scale solar. Further, HB 206 creates precedence that should terrify other land uses. I cannot understand why we want legislators making determinations where there exists a process for the experts at the Department of Environmental Quality to analyze numerous factors before making a determination of significant adverse impact.

The Bill states, “… [a] project will be deemed to have a significant adverse impact if it would disturb more than 10 acres of prime agricultural soils or 50 acres of contiguous forest lands, if it would disturb forest lands enrolled in a program for forestry preservation pursuant to subdivision 2 of § 58.1-3233, or if it meets any other threshold for a significant adverse impact as the Department may establish via regulation; …” The bill does NOT define disturbance, nor detail specific mitigation measures, but leaves that up to an undefined “advisory panel” to inform regulations.

Why is this a problem? The Department of Environmental Quality will hamstring ground-level solar development through regulations and prevent Virginia from meeting its VCEA goals, cost-effectively. Farmers are turning to solar to diversify sources of income and keep their family farms. Further, rural localities receive significant tax revenue allowing them to preserve a way of life despite decades of challenging socio-economic trends.

The Senate Committee on Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources is considering HB 206. If you agree with me, contact your Senator and explain why HB206 is a problem. Click here: Who is my Legislator