Dominion, one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, says it is investing more than $800 million in solar power in Virginia, with much of it being built at little or no cost to most customers.
The company says additional solar projects are now in the planning stages.
“Our company has made a major commitment to develop significant blocks of solar generation to meet customers’ energy needs going forward,” says Paul Koonce, CEO of power generation at Dominion Energy. “Our goal is to have a balanced generating portfolio that is highly reliable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible. The cost of energy powered by the sun is coming down, and we are working hard to develop projects in new and economical ways for our customers.”
As reported, nearly 398 MW of solar generation have either been completed or are under development throughout much of Virginia – enough to power 100,000 homes. Dominion says that most of the development and construction costs will be borne by specific contractual customers, such as large businesses and government.
In February 2015, Dominion committed to developing 400 MW of large-scale solar generation facilities in Virginia and placing them in service by 2020. Additionally, legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2015 found that development by Virginia utilities of up to 500 MW of solar projects in the state was “in the public interest.”
“We are well ahead of schedule on the solar expansion, and what we have added so far will have a very minimal impact on the price of electricity for the 2.5 million regulated customers we serve in Virginia,” Koonce adds.
Notably, the Corporate Clean Energy Procurement Index, in partnership with the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Information Technology Council, recently ranked Virginia among the top 20 states for solar power and in the top three for utility clean energy purchasing options.
More than 80% of the cost of the facilities is being covered by large business and government customers, including the commonwealth of Virginia and the University of Virginia, which signed long-term contracts with Dominion to develop the generation.
In addition to building larger solar-powered units, Dominion’s Solar Partnership Program has placed company-owned solar panels on leased rooftops and grounds of government and business properties throughout its Virginia service area. The company says that 10 of these facilities have been installed at sites including Canon in Gloucester, Old Dominion University in Norfolk and Capital One in Chester.
The commonwealth’s commitment to 500 MW of large-scale solar development by 2020 was included in S.B.1349, passed by the General Assembly in February 2015. S.B.1349 froze the company’s base rates – making up about 60% of the typical residential bill – at 2015 levels for five years. This helped provide price stability for customers, as the company deals with complex federal air quality regulations, including those limiting power station carbon-dioxide emissions.
The bill also directed utilities to provide more assistance to low-income, elderly and disabled customers. In response, Dominion dramatically expanded EnergyShare, the company’s energy assistance program for customers in need. The company committed $57 million in additional funding for EnergyShare over five years. More than 20,000 families and individuals have received assistance since the expanded program began in September 2015.
Photo courtesy of Dominion – Powhattan Solar, featuring 71,820 panels.