Virginia is for lovers (of solar power)

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The State of Virginia has announced 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with 76.8 MW of wind and four solar power plants, totaling 345 MW, to power government facilities with Dominion Energy. Governor Ralph Northam’s office has quoted base rates of 3.4¢/kWh for the solar with 2% escalators starting after the third year, and 3.5¢/kWh for the first five years of the wind energy, before it jumps to 5.3¢/kWh in the sixth year and rises over time (PDF of the PPA).

The three solar facilities that have deals signed are the:

  • 88 MWac Belcher Solar, owned by Dominion Energy, in Louisa County was developed by a joint venture among Virginia Solar LLC and MAP Energy LLC
  • 70 MW Bedford Solar in the City of Chesapeake is under development by Lincoln Clean Energy
  • 90 MW Walnut Solar in King and Queen County is under development by Open Road Renewables

The Belcher plant’s interconnection analysis (pdf) with the PLM Interconnection noted a $9.1 million cost. The group will need construct approximately one span of a 230 kV Attachment line between the generation substation and a new AB2-158 230 kV Switching Substation. The estimated cost for this work is $1,200,000. To establish the new 230 kV AB2-158 Switching Substation estimated cost of this work scope is $6,300,000, with an estimated 24-36 months to complete this work.

Per the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), as of the end of Q1 2019, Virginia was the 18th state ranked nationally with 802 MW of solar power installed. However, the group projects just under 3 GW of solar will be installed over the next five years, moving the state to 7th nationally.

The Governor’s office noted that since January 2018, when Northam took office, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued 23 permits for solar projects that are projected to produce more than 800 megawatts of power. The DEQ expects to permit another seven projects by the end of the year that will generate a little less than 500 megawatts.

And the state has had regular headlines here on pv magazine USA – for instance Dominion recently acquired 95 MW and launched an RFP for 500 MW more, and the Governor signed an executive order for 100% clean electricity by 2050. the utility launched a pilot with the aim for all new school buses to be clean, co-ops signed up for big volume, and the data centers are making big clean energy buys. As well – with these agreements, Virginia’s state facilities will get 45% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2022, beating the Governor’s 30% goal by the same year.

Research suggests, Virginia consumers would see lower bills every year through 2050 if the state’s utilities added 49 GW of solar over that time period, matched with “over 20 GW” of storage, to reach 100% zero-carbon generation by 2050.

Its not all rosy though – a Solar Freedom bill was killed early in the year, the utility is priming customers to support their monopoly while doing its best to ignore solar+strorage as long as possible and undercutting pricing paid, some locals and fossil groups fought hard against a 500 MW plant in Spotsylvania (though it did get approved in full!),