Shining Light on Utility Scale Solar
The Alliance was thrilled to partner with Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission and Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission to host a series of workshops geared towards preparing localities to evaluate utility-scale solar projects proposed for their towns and counties.
We held the first workshop Tuesday, June 11th in Harrisonburg in the Rockingham County’s community room. We were encouraged by such a strong response from localities – six localities from our service area and four others across the state were represented by multiple staff and elected officials.Also in the room was a diverse slate of experts, a soil and water conservation district, project developers, a landowner, lawyers and an electric utility.
The second workshop on Tuesday, June 18th at Lord Fairfax Community College’s Middletown campus was equally well attended – eight additional counties and towns were represented, five from our service area and three close neighbors.
In short, the workshops were a big success. Presentations and discussions were comprehensive and balanced, and we walked away feeling strongly that localities are gaining the tools they need to make sure utility-scale solar projects that are successful in our region will be well-sited, carefully constructed and have a long-term plan in place.
Invitation and Agenda
Jonah Fogel is the Program Manager of the Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) at the University of Virginia. ERI is working with the Weldon Center for Public Service and other partners to provide energy planning assistance for Virginia localities. He hosted the 2017 Virginia Solar Summit and was a speaker on utility-scale solar at the 2018 VASWCD annual meeting and 2019 Environment Virginia conference. Jonah holds a PhD in natural resources with a policy minor and has more than a decade of experience in community-based education and development on topics of public administration and land use planning.
Richard Street is Senior Environmental Engineer – Chesapeake Bay Division for Spotsylvania County, which recently approved the largest solar energy project east of the Mississippi. As environmental staff, Richard has led the county’s efforts to address the scale of the construction and protect natural resources. He serves on the State Soil and Water Conservation Board and has been a featured speaker on utility-scale solar at the 2018 VASWCD annual meeting and 2019 Environment Virginia conference.
Darren Coffey, AICP, is CEO of The Berkley Group, a local government consulting firm that has provided services to numerous rural localities fielding utility-scale solar proposals. He has worked with Mecklenberg and Greensville counties as well as Chase City. This assistance has ranged from preparing 2232 reviews, guiding them through comp plan updates, and preparing impact analyses. Darren also did a podcast last year on solar with VACO Director of Local Government Policy Joe Lerch. (June 11 only)
Denise Nelson, P.E., CFM, ENV SP, LEED AP, is an environmental engineer with The Berkley Group. She has served as a consultant for multiple southside localities fielding utility-scale solar proposals.
Sara Hollberg, AICP, is a land use planning consultant. For the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, she researched utility-scale solar ordinances and prepared their white paper of recommendations for local governments. She has worked in the Valley region for decades. While at Valley Conservation Council, Sara established the Better Development program and organized regional conferences and prepared educational materials on conservation and development topics. Mary Major, Renewable Energy Permits, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, oversees the permitting process that covers most utility-scale solar projects. She will speak briefly on how one can participate in the proposed rule making this year and answer questions about the permitting program.
Joe Lerch, AICP, is Director of Local Government Policy for the Virginia Association of Counties. He has more than 20 years of local government experience. He previously served as the Virginia Municipal League’s Director of Environmental Policy and also has extensive experience as a planner with posts at the City of Richmond, Spotsylvania County and the City of Fairfax. Additionally, Lerch served on the City of Fredericksburg Planning Commission. (June 18 only)
Mary Major, Renewable Energy Permits, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, oversees the permitting process that covers most utility-scale solar projects. She will speak briefly on how one can participate in the proposed rule making this year and answer questions about the permitting program. (June 11 only)
Stephen Kalland is the Executive Director of the NC Clean Energy Center. He has worked with energy efficiency and renewable energy for over 20 years. His work with the North Carolina Clean Energy Center includes public policy as well as workforce and economic development. (June 11 only)
Bill Shobe of UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center directs the Center for Economic and Policy Studies. He previously served as an associate director in the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget where he coordinated state expenditure forecasts and the economic analysis of state regulations. (June 11 only)
Special thanks goes to contract land-use planner Sara Hollberg for her work and attention to detail in organizing and producing these workshops!