Virginia certainly not for small-scale solar lovers

A quick glance at the solar headlines out of Virginia might leave one with the impression Virginia solar is booming.

After all, megacorporations like Facebook and Google are demanding solar be part of any electricity-generation package to get them to locate in the state, and Dominion Energy Virginia has tripped over itself to provide the necessary capacity.

But under the radar, the Virginia Solar Energy and Energy Storage Authority (VSEESA) (established in 2015 by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to promote solar development and then later expanded to include energy storage) has failed in its sole objective of promoting smaller solar projects.

In fact, the authority currently sports three empty seats out of 11 total. Nearly one-quarter of the seats don’t currently have members sitting in them, in what is an apt metaphor for the “work” the committee has done.

VEESA met in 2015 shortly after it was established, and one year later it had published exactly one report on the solar industry. It’s biggest accomplishment as of last November seemed to be shepherding its then full-slate of members through “conflict of interest” and “ethics” training.

What it has not done is promote small-scale solar development, outside of a 10 MW solicitation for community solar issued in September, four months after it had been directed to by the state legislature.

Solar advocates had been encouraged when, in May, McAuliffe signed four pro-solar bills into law, including one to encourage community-solar development, revise power-purchase agreements (PPAs) to encourage the state’s noted colleges and universities to install solar. Since then, those efforts have largely gone nowhere.

Critics of the authority do note that Dominion Virginia Energy has a seat at the table, which they argue could have something to do with why its policies seem to be more in line with the utility’s needs and desires than of the small-scale industry.

Information from the SEIA/GTM Research 2016 U.S. Solar Market Insight