Oct 2, 2018

Legal/Public Affairs Combo Paves Path for Solar Energy Projects

As interest in renewable energy development increases, particularly in the area of solar power generation, pressure continues to mount on local government officials tasked with reviewing and approving these projects. A utility-scale solar project faces most of the typical challenges of any commercial construction project — concerns about environmental impacts, site design, traffic, perceived impacts on property values — plus significant challenges unique to this sector. 

Solar developers generally target land zoned as agricultural or rural in predominantly agricultural communities. Historical ties to agriculture, multigenerational family farms and a community’s lack of familiarity with utility-scale solar projects combine to create skepticism, especially if multiple projects are being considered in the locality.

Residents often express concerns about the shrinking number of family farms and loss of rural characteristics in their community. Many have heard inaccurate but widely spread information about solar projects, such as contamination from leaking panels or significantly lower property values as a result of a project being located next door. Solar developers are sometimes surprised when, rather than welcoming such projects with open arms, a community embraces misconceptions about the solar industry and utility-scale solar projects, creating an uphill battle for the developer.

A Powerful Partnership

While solar energy policy continues to evolve, implementation at the local level requires a significant investment by developers. McGuireWoods LLP and McGuireWoods Consulting collaboratively advocate for solar energy projects, offering clients a unique dynamic that empowers them to achieve their development goals in a coordinated and efficient manner. 

Our attorneys and public affairs professionals work together to educate communities, government officials and staff regarding the true impacts of solar development projects. We handle every legal and community support aspect associated with a solar development project — from zoning application approval, local and state law compliance, and development negotiations, to grassroots/grass-tops consensus building, digital media campaigns and public relations management.

 

This article is part of a series of reports on our experience in the energy sector. Read other articles in the series: