Last month, the Virginia State Corporation Commission approved an expansion of solar energy and energy storage facilities for Dominion Energy. Storage is the energy industry term for utility scale batteries, used to store renewable energy for distribution when solar or wind power is not available.
According to Dominion, once these 15 facilities in Virginia are operational, they will provide enough energy at peak output to power 250,000 homes in Virginia. In a news release, Dominion said the projects will be completed in 2022 and 2023, adding $1.13 to a typical residential customer’s monthly bill.
The approved expansion is the second annual renewable energy expansion proposed by Dominion to comply with the Virginia Clean Economy Act, passed by the General Assembly in 2020.
According to Dominion representative Aaron Ruby, in accordance with the law, the utility submits a proposal each fall to the SCC for roughly 1000 megawatts of new solar and/or storage facilities in Virginia. After a period of public comments, the SCC decides the following spring which projects are allowed to move forward.
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The Dominion proposal last fall and the subsequent SCC approval this spring was the second in a cycle that will continue each year through 2035, with the goal of removing all greenhouse-gas emissions from the state’s power grid by 2045. This target, known as net-zero, is seen as a vital step in slowing down ongoing planetary warming.
Dominion does not own all of the solar facilities. The Virginia Clean Economy Act stipulates that 35% of solar must be purchased by Dominion from third-party developers, in what are called power purchase agreements, or PPAs.
Most of the facilities approved in this year’s cycle are via PPAs, although their total power output is less than Dominion-owned proposed facilities. Ruby says these third parties must follow the same local and state rules for developing facilities as Dominion, and the SCC reviews them in the same way it reviews Dominion.
Ruby said land isn’t simply covered with solar panels. On average, about half of the land used at a facility is for environmental controls, maintenance, grid connection and wildlife protection as well as buffers for waterways, homes and surrounding properties. Altogether, it takes about 10 acres, or eight football fields, to generate one megawatt of power, which is enough to power about 250 homes.
Although most of the approved sites for 2022 are through PPAs, the largest of these 15 sites is being developed by Dominion in Loudoun County, on the grounds of Washington Dulles International Airport. A combination of 100 MW of solar and 50 MW of storage is planned and expected to be operational in 2024.
Closer to Richmond in this annual cycle is the Winterpock Solar Project in Chesterfield County. According to Dominion, construction will begin this year, with plans to become operational in 2023. The site will cover about 340 acres off of River Road, a couple of miles north of the Appomattox River.
Ruby emphasized that power generated and stored at these new facilities will serve people living in Virginia. Once the electricity is generated and goes to the grid, it is sent to where there is demand, but these new facilities are being developed to serve the power needs of Virginians.
Dominion already operates solar facilities in Virginia. Like the Scott facility in Powhatan County, most of these are east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as locations farther east of the mountains tend to be sunnier throughout the course of the year.
With discussion ramping up about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in Virginia, we took a closer look at what it is, where the money goes…
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Facebook: Sean Sublette, Meteorologist