Document Type

Professional Plan Capstone

Original Publication Date



Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy



Date of Submission

May 2021


Virginia has seen a rapid growth of the utility-scale solar industry with many new solar facilities constructed in recent years. The continued development of utility-scale solar facilities is anticipated because of Virginia’s aggressive renewable portfolio standards in addition to recent technological improvements and declining system costs. However, an emerging concern regarding the widespread development of utility-scale solar facilities is its potentially significant land use. To date, there is very little information available that comprehensively evaluates the existing land use impacts and development trends of solar facilities. This study investigates the spatial characteristics of existing utility-scale solar energy facilities in Virginia using GIS techniques.

The data and analysis provided in this study characterize the impacts of existing utility-scale solar facilities. This includes assessing solar facility sites in Virginia based on location, size, land cover change, conservation quality, farmland suitability, and the demographics of nearby communities. By quantifying and summarizing the characteristics of the areas impacted by solar facilities, this report provides a foundation for supporting the sustainable development of future solar energy facilities. Clearly understanding the existing conditions and trends of solar development in Virginia today will help to inform better land use practices tomorrow. Accordingly, this research provides recommendations for continuing to track the development of solar facilities across the state in the coming years. It also considers policies that promote efficient land use to maximize the benefits of solar energy development while also mitigating potential impacts.


© Aaron Berryhill

Is Part Of

Master of Urban and Regional Planning Capstone Projects