“Defending Conserved Land: The Challenge of Data Centers and Energy Infrastructure” by Christopher G. Miller, President, The Piedmont Environmental Council.
This presentation will focus on the need for better planning and best practices for the deployment of solar towards 100% renewable energy goals as set forth in the Virginia Clean Economy Act. The presentation will present the challenge the ambiguity in the statute as to the scale and scope of deployment in Virginia. It will also present the need for avoidance and mitigation impacts of other conservation values critical to a comprehensive response to climate change, particularly the conservation of prime soils and intact forest blocks. Legislation enacted in the 2022 session of the Virginia General Assembly, HB206, has authorized a regulatory process; an interim report of a RAP has provided a good summary of the issues associated with large scale deployment of utility scale solar. The Piedmont Environmental Council, where I lead a staff working on a broad range of issues including energy, climate, conservation, and land use planning, has been confronted with the real impacts of the transition to clean energy, including the conversion of land for generation, transmission and other infrastructure. Conservation projects to protect farms with significant prime soils, historic and environmental justice values are competing directly with utility scale solar proposals. With projections in Virginia for the land likely to be converted to renewable energy ranging from 100,000 acres to more than 1,300,000 acres in Virginia, 5% of the land area in the state, we are exploring how to improve planning, best practices and incentives so that we avoid and mitigate the negative impacts on communities and other conservation values, including but not limited to farmland protection, habitat protection, historic and cultural landscape protection, community planning and design, water supply and water quality, and access to natural areas.
Christopher G. Miller has served as The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) President since 1996. Mr. Miller is responsible for overall management and strategic planning for PEC, including its land conservation program, habitat restoration, rural economics, energy policy, land use policy, smart growth and transportation policies. He is a founding member of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and and a founding Co-Chair and Steering Committee member of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Mr. Miller also serves on the boards of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, the Virginia Conservation Network, the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. He also is a member of the Land Trust Alliance Leadership Council.
- Sponsored by:
- Environmental Studies