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NV conservation group supports FERC's transmission planning rule; Memorial Day weekend includes Tornadoes and record-high temperatures; A focus on the Farm Bill for Latino Advocacy Week in D.C; and Southeast Alaska is heating homes with its rainfall.

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U.S. Supreme Court allows South Carolina gerrymander that dilutes Black voters, Sen. Ted Cruz refuses to say if he'll accept 2024 election results, and Trump calls Mar-a-Lago search an attempt to have him assassinated.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

Expanding solar in VA can provide numerous benefits

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Thursday, April 4, 2024   

Virginia energy experts feel a recent push for solar energy legislation could have benefited the state.

Senate Bill 697 would have removed a ban on solar energy installations, compounded by county-level moratoriums. Instead, localities could not ban solar projects until they hit 4% of their landmass. It would have allowed landowners to bring projects forward for a vote.

The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but failed in the House.

Skyler Zunk, co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit Energy Right, said misinformation has hampered solar development.

"We hear, very frequently, that folks think panels contain toxic materials and leach out chemicals into the ground. It's absolutely not true," Zunk pointed out. "You hear a lot of folks with concerns over lowered property values nearby projects."

An Energy Right poll shows most residents support landowners' right to build a solar project on their land. Had the bill passed, numerous counties would have had to revise statutes to allow landowners to bring the projects forward.

The Virginia Association of Counties came out against the bill, arguing it reallocated local control. Zunk countered most of the organization's reasons are not factual.

Virginia has a high demand for clean energy, although it consumes three times more electricity than it generates, getting additional power from two regional grids. Zunk believes it is not a sustainable way forward but said it will have to wait until the General Assembly reconvenes in 2025.

"It remains to be seen if this bill will come back next year," Zunk noted. "If it might undergo a couple more changes, if counties want to be constructive and talk about ways that they could address some of their concerns while also understanding the need for development of new energy in Virginia."

Beyond benefiting residents, solar energy benefits localities, too, generating millions in tax revenue. Through 2031, Halifax County will generate almost $11 million from solar projects, with another nine projects under construction, which can be used to fund schools and local infrastructure projects.


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