Dominion expands renewables in Virginia

Published on November 14, 2018 by Scott Sowers

Credit: Dominion

The state of Virginia currently ranks 37th out of the 50 states for percentage of renewable energy production – but that may be changing as Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Energy pushes forward with more clean energy investments.

Dominion Energy Virginia now cites 824 megawatts (MW) of solar currently under development or in operation and a commitment to add 3,000 MW of solar and wind energy by 2022. That investment includes its 12-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project off Virginia Beach.

The offshore project will consist of two test turbines, almost 600 feet in height and producing 6 MW apiece. Dominion’s developer and contracting partner on the project is the Danish firm Orsted.

Wind projects sometimes have trouble getting off the ground with the public but David Botkins, a spokesman for Dominion, is optimistic. “There has been strong public support for the test project located 27 miles off the coast where they are not visible to the naked eye from the shoreline,” he said.

According to Dominion, “The $300 million project will be funded through existing base rates, as enabled by the Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018 (GTSA). Contingent on various regulatory approvals, onshore construction would start in 2019, followed by turbine installation and operation in 2020.”

The GTSA was signed into law in March by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and was designed to change the way utilities can spend “over earnings,” money that state regulators believed were excessive profits. The state wants to see the money plowed back into grid improvements, investments in renewables and energy efficiency measures. The effects include more money for weatherization programs, bill assistance to the elderly, veterans and customers with low-income or disabilities.

Dominion is also adding solar capacity through a combination of building its own facilities and through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). The two biggest PPAs already in place include partnerships with CA Solar, based in California, and Utah-based Four Brothers Solar.

Dominion said that in 2015 the company’s solar portfolio totaled just over 1 MW, and at the time, the company set a goal of 400 MWs under development in Virginia by 2020. It now has 824 MWs in operation or under development in the state. Dominion Energy is one of only three investor owned utilities to reduce U.S. carbon intensity by more than 40 percent since 2000.

“Renewables are becoming more price competitive than ever before, but it’s important to have a diversified energy mix to provide the reliable, affordable, safe electricity that Virginia families and businesses need and want,” Botkins said.

In addition to the solar and wind initiatives, Dominion is also maintaining diversity by keeping nuclear in its future. The utility’s 2018 Integrated Resource Plan which extends from 2019-2033 calls for an assumption that “all of the company’s nuclear generation in Virginia, which includes two reactors at Surry Power Station and two at North Anna Power Station, will receive 20-year operating license extensions from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

For Dominion, it’s an all-of-the-above approach and full steam ahead.