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Prince William County planners are trying to ease regulations to support solar projects.

The Planning Commission received a report on the county’s solar panel approval process and planned regulations during a work session Wednesday.

Development Services Director Wade Hugh said the county approved only 14 residential solar projects in 2016, but have seen requests quickly increase since then. In 2019, 253 projects were approved, with the number unexpectedly dropping to 110 in 2020, probably caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are definitely seeing the upward trend of workload coming in,” Hugh said.

In November, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ interim climate mitigation goals, joining other Northern Virginia jurisdictions in aiming for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 100% renewable electricity by the same year. 

Hugh said the county has been working with the Maryland-DC-Delaware-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association to discuss possible incentives, fast-track permitting and solar-friendly regulations.

The industry association recommended the county develop an online building permit application process, which Hugh said was implemented in January.

The association also recommended reducing the building plan review process and helping industry groups better understand the inspection process. Hugh said the latter recommendation has been difficult with fewer in-person interactions between county staff and customers.

Hugh said the county is planning to review and update its solar energy policies, guidelines and design standards.

The association is asking the county to reduce or waive fees for residential solar energy projects. Hugh said that, according to the industry group, the average fee is $200 to $300. Hugh said Prince William’s fees are in the $800 range.

Hugh said the next step in the process is creating a team to review building development policies, guidelines and design standards. 

Commissioners said the process should involve input from county residents. The panel also asked county staff to determine how much revenue the county would lose if it waived or reduced fees for solar projects. 

Karen Sheehan, director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, told the panel that removing cost barriers and offering incentives would be essential to expanding solar throughout the county.   Sheehan called for a streamlined inspection and review process, along with incentives for installing solar systems and lower permitting costs.

“If this county is going to be successful with solar installations, you’re going to have to depend on residential solar,” she said. “Solar isn’t cheap yet. The costs are coming down, but it’s not cheap.”

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

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(10) comments

ManassasBro

https://starexponent.com/business/retired-professor-tells-culpeper-board-solar-is-unreliable-poor-use-of-farmland/article_5cc62318-be2f-5232-babe-891d55f596b3.html

Wake Up & Smell The Coffee!

“... a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 100% renewable electricity by the same year”. That’s their goal, not mine!

Goodfella

The issue is not a few hundred dollars in fees. It is the monopoly of dominion power basically owning the surface of your house through easements and you still paying them as they use you and your property to make more money.

godgoldnguns

Great, we too can experience rolling blackouts like Texas. The data centers will love that.

InsideCommenter

I'd stop watching fake right wing news, the Governor even apologized and said that Solar and Wind were not major issues rather it was Natural Gas and Coal plants which are upwards of 70% of Texas that failed and caused the rolling blackouts. By the way this can all be solved by "winterizing" the power grid.

Citizen52

Let’s stop this simplistic nonsense. Your statement comes almost verbatim from CNN, the antithesis of Fox. If you read multiple sources, there is a much more complicated picture of the power failure. Try reading USA Today for a detailed look. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) which runs 90% of TX energy, 45,000 MW went off-line. Of that, 15,000 was wind and 30,000 was gas/coal.

InsideCommenter

How this conversation I said Wind and Solar aren't responsible for the rolling blackouts. And that the failure comes from failing the winterize the power grid.

I point out that this is a Fox News viewpoint. You throw a temper tantrum and yell "muh CNN fAke nEwZ", like a baby just for pointing out basic common sense to you.

You 100% agree with me by lending me statistics which show that 30,000/45,000 or 67% MW of energy produce in TX to homes in ERCOT are produced by dirty natural gas or coal. You just like to back up the GOP like it's your local sports team, even when recognizing that I was correct.

InsideCommenter

What I don't get is you getting mad at me for saying simplistic nonsense when the person I responded to literally said Wind and Solar were to blame, something that both you and I said is total hogwash and the statistics by USA today 100% back it up. Quit defending the GOP and realize your in a cult, you lack critical thinking you didn't understand the implications of rehashing the MW produced in ERCOT and how that proved my case.

Hawkeye10

The Texas grid situation is running with just a little bit of excess power capacity.

It doesnt take much of an overload to bring down the gird where they have to go to reserve resources . The problem with the federal order was "you shall not turn up your FF plants unless you buy otherwise." What that delay did is that the plants became frozen. They are outdoors. When you didnt start the excess auxiliary power plants on time, they wouldnt work.

They only turned it on when it was too late. The extremist climatologists didnt want to put more sulfur dioxide into the air, at least that was their reasoning.

When you get up to max. capacity, your a couple of seconds away from the generators from shutting down automatically. so they started rolling blackouts. The problem with this is they shut down power to the gas pumping station, with a lack of natural gas to run existing power plants.

The problem with solar and wind power is because they are susceptible to lack of wind, and at night time, you have to turn back on the thermal power generating power plants. When they didnt turn the back on in time, they were frozen. But this was a severe event, and the government was unprepared for something like this.

The governor I guess wanted them to override the order, and the Dept. of Energy wouldn't. The governor should have over ridden the federal orders, in a State of Emergency. He could have just turned on the power plants.

The politicians love to use the term "fossil fuels." Its thermal energy from carbon sources. Green energy is expensive. Germany has had devastating blackouts when green energy doesn't produce. It can be an alternative, but not the end all be all. Nor should it be. Carbon=LIFE force!

Iwouldntgiveabean

No, it's a pretty simple explanation: Texan politicians didn't want to invest in sustainable and reliable energy. They wanted to be cheap. Now they blame everyone and everything but themselves.

There is a pattern of a lack of accountability among the Republican party.

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