RICHMOND – Two studies reveal solar energy may provide a key to restoring Virginia’s economy in the wake of the pandemic. In fact, the latest report indicates that up 29,000 jobs would be created from planned solar projects in Virginia from small scale rooftop solar alone.
Mangum Economics, a Richmond-based analysis firm, and Virginia Commonwealth University separately looked at the tax revenue impacts of large scale solar projects and job creation potential and the corresponding economic impacts of small scale solar, respectively.
Mangum Economics revealed large scale solar projects in Virginia provide a greater net fiscal benefit to counties than several other land uses. Agricultural and residential development typically bring with them the need for more schools and emergency services capacity to accommodate population growth, for example, that end up costing counties money rather than netting counties money (See the full study here).
“The sudden interest in solar,” describes economist Fletcher Mangum, “is that utility-scale solar facilities are capital intensive and generate substantial local tax revenue, while imposing few if any costs on local services. That makes them an attractive way to diversify the economic portfolio of many localities.”
Two laws recently passed by the General Assembly enable counties to draw greater revenue from utility-scale solar projects, marking a starker contrast between solar and other forms of development. For example, a 100 MW solar facility will pay $118,000 to nearly $200,000 per year to a county but impose little costs like education, sewer lines, or other public services. Given how many counties are grappling with revenue shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic, permitting in solar projects that pay consistent taxes during economic recessions is an increasingly attractive option.
As Virginia faces historically high levels of unemployment, Virginia Commonwealth University studied how small scale solar for homeowners and businesses will bolster job opportunities in the state (See the full study here). The Virginia Clean Economy Act, signed by Governor Northam in April, calls for 3 percent of the state’s electricity needs to be met with distributed solar energy, likely resulting in over 29,000 solar jobs created.
The solar industry has proven itself as a “shovel ready” industry that can quickly rebound during the pandemic. “Most, if not all, of the installation itself takes place outside so crews can continue to safely install a solar array while avoiding contact with residents indoors,” notes Rachel Smucker of MDV-SEIA, the trade association that commissioned both studies.
“As families spend more time at home, they rely more on their own electronics and cooking appliances. This causes a spike in energy use they may not see on bills until weeks later. The solar industry offers customers an appealing alternative, especially in these unprecedented times, to use cleaner energy generated right on their own rooftops that lessens their reliance on utilities and lowers their power bills.”
Maryland D.C. Virginia Solar Energy Industry Association (MDV-SEIA) is the second-largest state affiliate of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) with over 160 member organizations, representing over 10,000 solar jobs in the region. Through direct advocacy, policy formation, regulatory intervention and market representation, MDV-SEIA strives to develop and implement strong solar policies to ensure continued market formation for all solar segments in this region and beyond.
David Murray, Executive Director
Rachel Smucker, Virginia Policy and Development Manager
MD-DC-VA Solar Energy Industry Association