PEC Weighs in on Dulles Airport Solar Project

In December, PEC, along with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, submitted comments on an application by Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to develop a utility-scale solar project at Dulles Airport. One hundred megawatts of solar energy could be developed on approximately 833 acres. The land would be subleased to Dominion Energy.

PEC generally supports solar development at this site given its close proximity to heavy energy load uses such as data centers, commercial development, light industrial facilities, residential areas, and most importantly, existing transmission lines. However, we would also argue the project should maximize the potential on rooftops and structures, increasing the overall generation provided and allowing for a more sensitive panel design for the greenfield portion of the project.

MWAA is finalizing its draft environmental assessment (EA) of the project, and PEC has submitted comments on the initial draft. One of the surprising findings from the initial assessment is that 272 acres of utility-scale solar over parking lots and on rooftops could provide about 80% of the 100MW desired. The EA indicates that utility-scale solar over rooftop and parking lots at Dulles would be an almost 2.5 times more efficient use of land, due to the ability to maximize panel area, as greenfield acres require greater spacing between panels and rows.

MWAA will prepare responses to PEC’s comments on the draft EA before submitting a final EA to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for review and acceptance. After review of the final EA, the FAA will either issue a finding of no significant impact or decide to prepare an environmental impact statement.

View our full comments. Read more on PEC’s utility-scale solar policy recommendations.

proposed solar layout map
The proposed solar layout from the Draft Environmental Assessment.
alternative proposed solar layout map
An alternative solar layout that covers developed areas of the airport, from the Draft Environmental Assessment.