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Communities permitting solar arrays should plan ahead for their removal

Solar array at UVA
Solar panels usually fail at around 30 years so owners should plan for their replacement.

Solar is now the cheapest form of electric generation, outpacing coal in producing power. So it’s no surprise that the number of solar farms or arrays is growing. But it turns out only a quarter of the counties in Virginia have laws on the books dictating what should happen when solar panels wear out.

“Installing new solar panels after about 30 years or whether they intend to dismantle and remove the facility from the property. These projects can be upwards of hundreds or thousands of acres,” says Elizabeth Marshall with the Virginia Solar Initiative – a think tank at UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center.

She says it could cost over a million bucks to replace or remove an array, and the time to lay out ground rules is before panels are installed.

“Looking at the site removal and land restoration proposals, what legal protections are appropriate for that locality and that developer. Looking at which financial assurances are most appropriate and how to update those cost estimates.”

When 75% of communities surveyed expressed interest in this topic, the Virginia Solar Initiative published a 63-page report which is now available free to any locality considering a large solar installation.

Updated: September 9, 2022 at 2:19 PM EDT
Editor's Note: The University of Virginia is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.
Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.