Solar Energy Development in West Virginia for Clean Electricity

by Diana Gooding on November 15, 2020


———- A Path to a Brighter Economic Future ———-

Technical Report by Downstream Strategies, The Nature Conservatory and WVU Center on Energy & Sustainable Development, 2019


West Virginia has the potential to generate a significant amount of electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to power homes, businesses and the grid. Solar development represents a huge economic opportunity for West Virginia to continue as a domestic energy leader into the future. If the state embraces solar-friendly policies, jobs will be created, tax revenues will increase, existing industries will secure cheap electricity and new companies seeking renewable energy will locate in West Virginia. States that make early investments in solar will reap the greatest rewards.

Solar development creates direct and indirect jobs —

 Solar installation companies

 Solar panel and component manufacturers

 Large industrial and commercial employers can grow their
businesses by securing predictably priced, cheap electricity

 New growth industries and companies with renewable energy
targets are more likely to choose to locate where they have access
to clean energy

As illustrated in this report, one need only look at the nearby area— Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Washington D.C. — to see how quickly solar can be developed and to identify the economic benefits that solar brings. In addition to jobs, it can stabilize and potentially reduce electricity rates and can increase local revenues through taxes and payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements.

Solar development has proceeded at very different paces in different states. The most important driver is not necessarily the amount of sunlight— it is state policies. Once enabling policies are in place, local jobs will be created—even in states like West Virginia with regulated electricity markets.

This report discusses the drivers of solar development across the region and identifies benefits that are accruing to states that are already pursuing solar development. The second report, entitled “Roadmap for Solar on Mine Lands,” provides recommendations that will result in the deployment of solar on mine lands in West Virginia.

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See also: The Virginia SCC’s vanishing trick: turning shared solar into no solar | Power for the People VA, Ivy Main, November 1, 2020

With Virginia fully committed to the clean energy transition, you would think that by now, residents would be able to check a box on their utility bill to buy solar energy, or at least be able to call up a third-party solar provider to sell them electricity from solar. Not so!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mason Adams November 15, 2020 at 2:38 pm

Solar rising across Appalachian communities

SOLAR: A 16 kilowatt solar array on the roof of a bike shop represents the first success in a southwestern Virginia’s group’s efforts to seed solar projects across seven coalfield counties. (Energy News Network)

• A city council in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley votes unanimously to lease nine acres for development of solar energy while also adopting a resolution that commits to 100% renewable energy by 2035.


Julia George November 15, 2020 at 2:50 pm

Dominion claims it’s 3rd largest utility owner of solar, continues clean energy transition in Virginia | Utility Dive News

From a News Report by Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Drive News, November 10, 2020

Dominion Energy affirmed to analysts the steps in its broader clean energy transition, including continuing to advance its large offshore wind development, in its third quarter earnings call on Thursday. Thomas Farrell, in his new capacity as executive chairman of the board, said Dominion became “the third largest owner of solar capacity among utility companies in the country.”

On Monday, Dominion announced the addition of 500 MW of solar in Virginia, across nine projects. While the company’s 2020 integrated resource plan remains under consideration by Virginia regulators, the utility issued a request for proposals (RFP) in October, soliciting bids for small-scale solar (up to 3 MW) while proceeding with another RFP for large-scale solar, onshore wind and energy storage.

While solar is expected to dominate Dominion’s renewable energy additions through 2035, the company is adding a sizeable amount of offshore wind. Dominion plans to file at the end of the year with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for federal permits for half of its 2.6 GW planned offshore wind development in Virginia. The $8 billion project is the largest offshore wind development in the United States so far.

Utility Dive Insight:

Prodded by state legislation and customer demand, Dominion is embracing the transition to clean energy. It wants to lead by example with its offshore wind development and continue adding to its renewables portfolio.

The pending RFPs in Virginia are intended to help inform future renewable energy filings with state regulators, according to the utility, along with an August-issued request for information to purchase or lease land for large-scale solar development.

The Virginia State Corporation Commission has also approved Dominion’s renewable energy tarriff, enabling customers to pay for 100% renewable energy, after some of the larger customers in the utility’s service sought to leave the monopoly utility due to lack of renewable energy options.

In its second quarter earnings presentation, Dominion laid out plans to increase nearly tenfold its renewable energy generation, from 2.9 GW of solar and some hydropower (excluding pumped hydro), to 28.3 GW of solar, wind, storage and hydro by 2035. The solar capacity will be built mostly in Virginia, and within the footprint of the PJM Interconnection, according to Farrell.

Offshore wind projects across the Northeast have been put off schedule due to setbacks with permitting through BOEM, and some have extended their in-service deadlines. However, Dominion says it remains ontrack with what aims to be the largest U.S. offshore wind development to date.

“Recent permitting recommendations for Northeast wind projects are not expected to alter materially our project plans and will be accounted for when we submit our construction and operation plan later this year,” Farrell said.

The project’s survey, geotechnical work and preparation are going well, according to Bob Blue, the new CEO of Dominion and former co-chief operating officer.

Third quarter operating earnings dropped from $946 million in Q3 2019 to $916 million in Q3 2020. The company expects fourth quarter operating earnings to further drop as the company divested from its gas transmission operations.

​On Monday, Dominion announced it closed the sale of its gas transmission and storage assets, not including the ACP Project, to Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company (BHE) for approximately $2.7 billion and $5.3 billion of related debt. The company is expected to complete the sale of its interests in Dominion Energy Questar Pipeline to the same Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary early next year.


Wally Venable November 16, 2020 at 9:51 pm

RE: It has been said that this would add income to areas much needing it.

I’m not opposed, but in the interests of objectivity, I would suggest the following apply:

* Most income would go to out-of-state land owners and hardware investors.

* The cost of long distance transmission lines would be significant.

* Local income from property taxes would be minimized through “payment in lieu of taxes” agreements.

* Local income would involve a relatively few maintenance employees.

* A lot of the construction work would employ short-tern out-of-state technical workers.

West Virginia is still West Virginia.


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