CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County has imposed new restriction on solar farms in an effort to protect wetlands and address other environmental concerns.

The two key changes are an expanded buffer around vulnerable wetlands and a ban on building panels on steep slopes.

“The changes are really pretty simple,” a county official said, noting that a 100 foot buffer is already required for all development around Resource Protection Areas (RPAs). RPAs are usually wetlands, whether streams or standing water, that are key to the biodiversity of the county.

Solar panels are now required to be set back an additional 35 feet from that 100-foot buffer, but developers can clear trees and otherwise disturb the ground within that 35 feet – something they cannot do within the RPA itself.

The other addition bans construction of solar panels on steep slopes over 20% grade, or about 11 degrees of incline.

“This is on request from the environmental engineering department, as being a better long term practice for us as we develop more and more of these solar facilities,” the county official said.

Both of those requirements have already been incorporated into planning approval for several proposed solar facilities – the ordinance would simply apply the restrictions universally.