Provided by: Water Resource Center
Solar energy is now the least expensive form of electric energy generation in world. Consequently, the market for solar energy projects is surging, with large-scale projects being proposed in every state in the nation. Large-scale PV solar projects, in particular, present unique and uncertain risks and opportunities to water quality and watershed functions. The U.S. Department of Energy funded the Photovoltaic Stormwater Management Research and Testing (PV-SMaRT) project to evaluate water quality impacts of large-scale solar development. The study will create solar-specific runoff coefficients that consider type of ground cover, soil type, hydrology, slope, and solar array design based on field testing across the nation and 3-D modeling. The project will also engage permit jurisdictions (authorities having jurisdiction, AHJs), from local to federal, to disseminate the findings and identify permitting best practices to make permitting transparent and predictable and improve water quality outcomes in our nation’s surface waters. One potential implication of the study is understanding the conditions under which conversion of agricultural or disturbed land to solar development with appropriate ground cover could meet green infrastructure goals of improving water quality outcomes within impaired watersheds.