Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has approved the state’s first permit regulation for renewable energy projects, following legislation from the 2009 General Assembly that transferred permitting authority for such projects from the State Corporation Commission to DEQ.
The permit regulation, known as a “permit by rule,” seeks to balance two statutory goals: to streamline and facilitate development of small renewable energy projects in Virginia, and to protect natural resources. This regulation addresses wind energy, and other types of renewable energy projects will be the focus of future regulations.
“This action creates a clear path for developing wind energy in Virginia,” Governor McDonnell said. “Wind energy causes no air pollution. In addition, developing and expanding our renewable energy industries will boost Virginia’s economy and create good jobs for our citizens.”
The permit by rule applies to wind farm projects with rated capacity not exceeding 100 megawatts. For wind turbines projects more than 500 kilowatts and up to 5 megawatts, the permit by rule calls for notifying DEQ in addition to other minimal requirements. It places no requirements on projects of 500 kilowatts and less.
For projects over 5 megawatts, the permit regulation establishes requirements for potential environmental impact analysis, mitigation plans, facility site planning, public participation, permit fees, inter-agency consultations, compliance and enforcement. It addresses proposed projects that are land-based, as well as those located in state waters.
A permit by rule sets out in detail what all applicants must do to gain permit coverage. It specifies uniform, across-the-board standards for all projects.
“This degree of certainty will help developers calculate their compliance costs up front and help them secure financing,” Governor McDonnell said. “It also assures Virginians that natural resource protection will be required of every project.”
Extensive natural resource protections are specified in the regulation. To assist in proper interpretation of these requirements, DEQ will consult with other natural resource agencies on each application.
“We achieved a significant degree of consensus during the development of this permit regulation,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “We now have an efficient and constructive process for approving proposed wind energy projects in Virginia.”
To develop the permit regulation, DEQ established two stakeholder panels that met 22 times between July 2009 and September 2010. Most of the provisions of the new regulation reflect the panels’ consensus-based recommendations. The stakeholder groups included state agencies, environmental organizations, wind developers, academia, local government and the military.