Pro-solar momentum swells in Virginia

Virginia takes great pride in its U.S. leadership. It refers to itself as the “Mother of States” (it was the first state colonized); “Mother of Presidents” (it produced seven of the first 12 presidents); and “Mother of Statesmen” (for the number of statesmen it has allegedly produced). But there is one thing Virginia has clearly not been the “mother” of: solar energy.

According to The Open PV Project by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Virginia ranks 38th in the country in installed solar, topping out at only 2 MW. Recently, however, the state seems to realize how far behind it is in the solar race – and seems hellbent on catching up.

On the heels of Dominion Virginia Power’s 2017 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which included plans to procure power from at least 990 MW of utility-scale solar projects over the next five years, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a flurry of bills earlier this week designed to goose the state’s solar industry – one that desperately needed it.

Among the bills in question, the four related to solar were:

  • SB 1393, which gave the state’s blessing to community solar programs in the service territories of Appalachian Power Company (ApCo), Dominion, and the Electric Cooperatives.  The specifics fo each program will be left up to the individual utilities, and citizens and businesses can subscribe to the community project.
  • SB 1258, which converted the Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority to the Virginia Solar Energy and Battery Storage Development Authority, reflecting the growing importance of batter-storage technology in the future of the solar industry. It also expanded participation in the authority by four seats.
  • SB 1395, which increased the maximum size of renewable projects from 100 MW to 125 MW. It also exempted residential rooftop from having to apply for and receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which oversees utility regulation in the state.
  • HB 2390, which created a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) pilot program, under the auspices of ApCo, to encourage private colleges and universities to add solar to their electricity portfolio.

“Today, I am honored to sign these bills into law, furthering the great work we’re doing to support and promote the clean energy sector across the Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said at the bill signing ceremony.

“It is clear that Virginia is moving in the right direction, especially with the recent announcement of record growth in our solar industry, but there is still work to do. Together, with our partners in the General Assembly and the private sector, I will continue to implement policies that bolster the entire clean energy industry in the Commonwealth.”