This state is now trying to take total control from local governments over these “green” projects

Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash

In many deep blue states, there is an effort to remove local control from any major “green” projects.

But now that effort is expanding to purple and even red states.

And that’s why this state is now trying to take total control of local governments over these “green” projects.

Despite growing concerns over green energy projects like solar and wind farms, many state governments are continuing their efforts to impose them on everyone.

Attempting to take power from localities

A couple of Virginia lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation to give state regulators more authority over proposed large solar, wind, and battery storage projects.

Their effort is geared towards imposing those projects on localities who are opposing them.

Their legislation will be brought up in the Virginia General Assembly at a time when developers of renewable energy projects, especially large solar farms, have encountered growing local resistance.

Under current Virginia law, these “green” developers are required to work through a variety of local regulations causing delays and even rejection of projects.

And this is happening all while Virginia is facing deadlines for meeting onerous state-mandated clean energy goals.

Senate Bill 567, introduced by State Senator Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, and House Bill 636, authored by Delegate Richard “Rip” Sullivan Jr., D-Fairfax County, would take control away from localities for solar energy facilities of at least 50 megawatts, wind energy facilities of at least 100 megawatts, and battery storage facilities of at least 50 megawatts.

Deeds defended his heavy-handed approach in a recent interview.

Deeds said the idea is to start to think of renewable energy as a statewide issue, instead of a strictly local issue.

“This is the development of sufficient energy so that we have reliable, affordable, safe energy, and we’re reducing carbon at the same time,” Deeds claimed. “You know, it is in the interest of every single Virginian. It’s a Virginia issue. It’s a statewide issue, and that’s all this bill is about.”

Under the new legislation energy companies planning large renewable energy projects would be able to turn to the State Corporation Commission instead of a local government for approval under the following circumstances:

  • If a locality fails to approve or deny the application in a timely manner; or
  • the applicant complies with certain state requirements but the locality denies it anyway; or
  • the locality notifies an applicant that its project is locally compatible but then amends its zoning laws in a way that adds additional, more restrictive requirements.

If the legislation becomes law renewable energy projects that receive the SCC’s approval wouldn’t need local land-use approval or any other local permits.

Negative impact on property values, the environment, farmland, and scenic views

Dominion Power is currently developing the 2.6-gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, which starts 27 miles off the shore of Virginia Beach and is anticipated to be complete in 2026. 

And plans are still in the works for what could be the commonwealth’s first onshore wind energy facility, at Rocky Forge, in Botetourt County. 

But it has primarily been solar farms and their drawbacks that have brought residents out to meetings of county boards of supervisors and town councils in recent years, almost unanimously in opposition to such projects.

Opponents are rightfully concerned about the facilities’ impact on property values, the environment, available farmland, and scenic rural views.

Southside Virginia has seen a number of solar energy developers, due in part to the area’s availability of flat, relatively inexpensive land. 

But recently many localities have enacted, or are currently considering enacting, strict limits on solar development.

Mecklenburg County capped total solar development in the county at 2,325 acres, or less than 1% of the county’s land. 

Pittsylvania County capped solar development at 2% of the total acreage within a single zoning district and required any new facility to be at least 5 miles from any others.

Supervisors in both counties said overwhelming local opposition drove their decisions to pass the restrictions.

One Mecklenburg supervisor, David Brankley, said, “The overwhelming majority of the people I represent and throughout the county don’t want these projects in their county or in their backyard.”

The Virginia Association of Counties, which represents counties in legislative and regulatory matters, opposes the bills.

You may also like...