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Researchers say stormwater from solar fields needs careful management

Solar panels are going up across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help states reach their renewable energy targets. But, while working to achieve climate-related goals, solar fields have the potential to generate water pollution—through increased stormwater runoff.

And, until recently, little work was being done to understand the impact of solar fields on the way stormwater runs off the landscape and into local waterways.

As the science begins to come in, policymakers in Virginia are grappling with a dilemma: How much should solar fields be subject to stormwater controls? It’s a pressing question because solar development in the state is charging ahead. The state ranked fourth in the nation in 2021 for its pace of new solar installations, and hundreds of thousands of acres there could be converted to solar projects in the coming years.

The crux of the problem lies with whether solar fields should be considered pervious or impervious land cover. Pervious areas allow water to so...

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