Virginia Statewide Solar Survey Report Released

Source: Virginia Department of Energy

On April 25, 2022, the Virginia Department of Energy (Virginia Energy) and the University of Virginia’s Virginia Solar Initiative released the Virginia Solar Survey based on data and information collected on solar development across the state. The survey was conducted in 2021 and included support from a statewide stakeholder group with representatives from the Nature Conservancy, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Association of Counties, the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions, SolSmart, the Berkley Group, and the solar industry. It was designed to collect data on solar readiness, policy, and energy planning from local governments. Solar is continuing to grow rapidly in Virginia, going from 30 gigawatt-hours in 2015 to 3,675 gigawatt hours in 2021, and this survey was key to understanding where local governments are spending their time and resources.

The data collected from the survey was analyzed and a report was released that outlined findings. Responses were received from 82 percent of all counties and cities in Virginia. Some of the key findings from the report include:

  • Local governments are actively reviewing and updating their local distributed generation solar policies and permitting processes.
  • Rural communities in the Central and Southside regions have been the most likely to have experience with large-scale solar and to have updated their solar policies.
  • Localities had the most interest in the local economic benefits and the physical development impacts of large-scale solar.
  • Localities that have updated their local solar policies were more likely to have addressed large-scale solar rather than distributed generation solar.
  • Local governments have been more likely to address large scale solar using conditional use permits, special use permits, and zoning ordinance.
  • Localities are most likely to turn to other local governments for assistance and information gathering.
  • Some local governments have installed solar on public property, but there is still room for growth.
  • Regional differences help to inform local governments’ experiences with solar and their interests for future assistance and guidance.
  • Responding localities have approved 80% of the applications for large-scale solar applications that they have reviewed.

“These results will be an important tool in realizing the potential of solar industry growth in Virginia," said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. "The opportunity for advancement and improvement among the Commonwealth's various cities, counties and towns will create opportunities for business growth in Virginia's solar sector."

Future reports based on the survey results will look at large-scale solar, distributed generational solar, local government energy procurement, and energy storage. Review the Virginia Solar Survey Report and Initial Findings here and the Virginia Department of Energy’s press release here