Appalachian Power renews search for 200 MW of solar

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Appalachian Power is embracing an “If at first you don’t succeed” mindset, issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to obtain up to 200 megawatts (MW) of solar energy projects in Virginia after the company’s unsuccessful RFP in late 2018, which led to no viable projects.

In recognition of the prior failure, this RFP contains specific changes, notably that the minimum solar project size is 10 MWac; projects may interconnect directly to the APCo distribution system in Virginia; an add-on option of a battery energy storage system up to 10 MW (down from 50 MW); and a commercial operation date of 12/15/2022 (previously 2021).

Also notable, while the projects will all be located in Virginia, Appalachian Power will seek regulatory approval for any suitable project in both Virginia and West Virginia. For context, Appalachian Power is a subsidiary of American Electric Power serving roughly 1 million customers across portions of Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee (shown below).

The RFP is being driven by the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that Appalachian Power filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission in May of 2019. That IRP, while dominated by a continued commitment to coal and natural gas, also included a plans for increased solar development, 200 MW, to be specific. The IRP also outlines Appalachian Power’s hope that its customers will add 82 MW of distributed solar by 2033.

However Appalachian Power is under pressure to develop renewables from other sources as well. Virginia Senate Bill 966, passed in 2018, requires Appalachian Power to construct or acquire solar resources prior to 2028.

The RFP, once completed, will represent a nearly 30% increase in the company’s solar capacity, which currently sits at 680 MW, according to the latest figures from Solar Asset Management North America. That figure places Appalachian Power 19th overall in terms of largest solar portfolios, though it should be noted that the list that also includes non-utilities, like Vivint, a third-party solar company.

pv magazine readers interested in this RFP can access criteria, required forms, and other specifics here. Proposals are to be submitted by March 2020 and any proposed project must qualify for the Federal Investment Tax Credit.