West Virginia Governor vetoes bill that would double allowable solar project size


West Virginia Governor Jim Justice vetoed a bill that would have raised the allowable maximum size of utility-scale solar projects from 50 MW to 100 MW.

Currently, West Virginia has an essentially nonexistent solar market. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said it has 38 MW of capacity installed to-date, or enough to power nearly 3,800 homes.

The state sources 0.08% of its electricity from solar power, while about 90% of its electricity comes from coal plants. Coal plants are being retired across the nation for their heavy emissions profile, and the fact that new-build solar costs about 29% less than fossil fuel alternatives, according to EY.

Governor Justice said the bill would lead to higher costs for consumers. The Hill reported that much of the Governor’s personal wealth lies within the coal industry, and that his family owns several mining and related businesses.

The legislation was designed in part to support investment in the state. Nearby state North Carolina has embraced clean energy in its economy and is expected to add 30,000 jobs and $10 billion to its gross domestic product from Inflation Reduction Act related investments.

Businesses that may otherwise locate or expand facilities in this state often require that a portion of the electricity that they purchase be generated via renewable sources,” said the bill. “Creating a program for the development of certain renewable sources of electricity by electric utilities will result in increased economic development opportunities in the state, create jobs and enhance the use of the state’s electricity generation.”

The Governor also warned the bill would cause job losses by putting coal mines out of business. However, many West Virginia counties have access to federal funding through the Inflation Reduction Act, which had significant carve-outs for job training, and lucrative incentives for communities that have historically relied on fossil fuels for powering their economy.

Last week, the Department of Energy announced $475 million in funding for clean energy projects at former mine sites across the U.S., including in West Virginia.

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