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January 3, 2024

As solar energy becomes a lower cost and more efficient source of renewable energy, major utility-scale solar panel installations, or solar farms, are being proposed and installed around the Mid-Atlantic region. These solar farms constitute a major land transformation. This transformation is particularly of interest because there can be substantial alteration of land characteristics in the development process, and solar farms also create a unique land cover with impervious surface over pervious surface, generating potential changes in hydrologic and water quality processes. There is currently wide variability in guidance and understanding of best practices relating to the land development and management of solar farms in the Chesapeake Bay region. Thus, a STAC-led workshop gathered speakers and participants from universities, industry, non-governmental organizations, and multiple levels of government across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to address the following questions in April 2023:

  1. What is the state of science on how solar farms impact hydrology and water quality under a range of site and management conditions and project scales?
  2. What are current best management practices and policies, and where in our region are there opportunities for improving recommendations and/or policies?
  3. What are the key gaps with respect to research needs to better answer understand the implications of utility scale solar development.

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