A Virginia Solar Energy Update, as of June 28, 2017: Projects in the News Since 2015 over 20 Localities; Senate Bills 1393 and 1395 in 2017 Va. General Assembly; Virginia Tied for Ninth Nationwide in 2016 National Solar Jobs Census; Large Solar Power Increase by Dominion Planned Over Next 25 Years, According to 2017 Integrated Resource Plan Filed 5/1/17.

Here are brief descriptions of some developments in solar energy in Virginia since fall 2015.  The items are listed in chronological order of when they were first added this post; see also the following alphabetical list by locality, keyed to item number(s).  All hyperlinks were functional as of 5/31/17.

Alphabetical list of the localities mentioned in the items below, with the corresponding item number(s).
Accomack County – 1, 3
Albemarle County – 13, 29
Buckingham County – 8
Charlottesville City – 21
Chesapeake City – 5, 23
Chesterfield County – 2
Clarke County – 11
Danville City – 25
Essex – 14
Gloucester County – 16, 27
Hanover County – 17, 26
Isle of Wight County – 4
New Kent County – 12
Northampton County – 9
Powhatan County – 14
Rockbridge County – 10
Statewide items – 18, 19, 20, 22, 28
Southampton County – 6
Suffolk City – 24
Sussex County – 15
Virginia Beach City – 7

A useful reference for proposed solar projects is the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s “Renewable Energy Projects Notices of Intent” Web site, at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/RenewableEnergy/RenewableEnergyProjectsNoticesofIntent.aspx.

For comparison to the megawatt (MW) capacities noted in the items below: according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of 2014 Virginia’s total summer electricity capacity was 26,292 MW.  U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Virginia Electricity Profile 2014,” online at http://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/Virginia/.  As of early 2017, Virginia had about 400 MW of solar-electricity capacity installed, provided by 184 solar companies and accounting for about 3200 jobs, according to Paula Squires, New laws are expected to boost solar development in Virginia, Virginia Business, 3/31/17.

1) On September 28, 2015, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the Commonwealth has approved the final permit needed for construction by Community Energy Solar, Inc., of an 80-megawatt solar facility in Accomack County.  The power generated will be sold to Amazon Web Services; Amazon, headquartered in Seattle, Wash., operates several Web services facilities worldwide, including one in Fairfax County, Va.  The Accomack County solar-power facility, to be called Amazon Solar Farm US East, will cover about 900 acres and include an estimated 250,000 solar panels, making it the second-largest solar facility on the U.S. East Coast.  The Governor’s Office’s 9/28/16 news release on the project stated that the facility will “more than quadruple the amount of solar energy currently installed in the Commonwealth.”  In November 2015, Dominion Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc. in Richmond, announced that it had acquired the project from Community Energy Solar, Inc. Dominion expects to begin providing power from the facility in fall 2016.
Sources:
Dominion acquires Accomack solar power project, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/16/15.
Governor McAuliffe Announces Permit for 80 Megawatt Solar Facility in Accomack County; Virginia will be home to the largest solar facility in the Mid-Atlantic and the second largest solar facility on the East Coast, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 9/28/15.
Final permit issued for Oak Hall solar plant, Delmarva Now, 9/28/15.
Amazon moving forward on Accomack solar farm, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/28/15.
Amazon Web Services to expand in Fairfax County, add 500 IT-focused jobs, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority News Release, 5/22/13.

2) In March 2016, Dominion Virginia Power opened a 2-megawatt solar facility on 12 acres on land leased from the Philip Morris Company in Chesterfield County, Va.  The facility cost $4.9 million and includes some 8,000 solar panels.  Source:  Solar array in Chesterfield is Virginia’s largest, for the moment, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/16/16

3) On April 20, 2016, Onancock, Va., citizen John VanKesteren told the Accomack County board of supervisors that he and his siblings plan to propose an 80-megawatt, $100 million solar energy project on 600 acres that the family owns near the county town of Tasley.  The Tasley project was the second large solar project proposed in Accomack County in the past year.  Previously, in June 2015, Community Energy, Inc., and Amazon, Inc., announced plans for an 80-megawatt solar project near the Accomack County community of Oak Hall; the project is known as Amazon Solar Farm US East.  In November 2015, Dominion Energy, Inc., bought the Community Energy-Amazon project.  Sources:
Another large solar project proposed in Accomack County, Delmarva Now, 4/25/16.  Dominion acquires Accomack solar farm, Delmarva Now, 11/17/15.

4) In December 2016, Dominion Virginia Power’s Woodland Solar project in Isle of Wight County began operation.  The 100-acre, 19-megawatt-capacity facility cost $44 million.  The project is owned by Dominion but is being managed by Amec Foster Wheeler (online at http://www.amecfw.com/).
Sources:
200 jobs could be opening for potential solar farm in Isle of Wight, Daily Press, 5/16/16.
Dominion’s 100-acre solar site powers up in Isle of Wight, Daily Press, 1/11/17.

5) As of June 2016, Dominion also was a partner with SunEnergy1 of North Carolina on a proposed 241-acre solar facility near Chesapeake, Va.  For more on SunEnergy1 projects, see http://www.sunenergy1.com/#!solar-project-map/u38rs.
Source:
Petition to relocate solar farm in southern Chesapeake draws more than 100 signatures, Virginian-Pilot, 6/23/16.

6) Southampton County: Community Energy Solar (headquartered in Penn.; online at https://communityenergysolar.com/) proposing a 100 megawatt-capacity, 1200-acre facility.  This would be the largest solar-energy facility in Virginia.  Community Energy Solar is also the developer of the 80 megawatt-capacity Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East in Accomack County (see item #1 above in this post).  Amazon Web Services plans to purchase power from both facilities.  Sources: Governor McAuliffe Announces Construction of Virginia’s Largest Solar Farm; New 100MW solar facility to be built in Southampton County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 1/25/17.  Solar farm proposed near Boykins, Tidewater News, 6/16/16; and Planning commission holds workshop session on solar farm, Tidewater News, 7/22/16.

7) On August 2, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the first solar-energy project to be used for Virginia state operations will be built by Dominion Virginia Power at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.  The 18-megawatt capacity project is expected to begin operations in late 2017.  The Commonwealth has pledged to purchase 100 percent of the power that the facility will generate.  In December 2014, Gov. McAuliffe announced a goal for Virginia state government to acquire eight percent of its electricity (about 110 megawatts) from renewable sources by 2017.
Source:
Governor McAuliffe Announces Solar Project to Power Government Operations with Renewable Energy; The Commonwealth is partnering with Dominion and the Department of the Navy to build solar project at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/2/16.

8) On August 11, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had issued a “permit by rule” for a proposed 19.8-megawatt-capacity solar facility on about 200 acres in Buckingham County, Va.  The facility is planned by Firestone Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Virginia Solar.  According to the Governor’s Office news release on the project, construction of the facility is expected cost $30-35 million and begin in early 2017, with completion expected later that year.
Sources:
Governor McAuliffe Announces Utility-Scale Solar Project in Buckingham County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/11/16.  State approves permit for $35 million solar project in Buckingham County, Virginia Business, 8/11/16.  Buckingham County solar project gets go-ahead, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 8/11/16.

9) On August 17, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had issued a “permit by rule” for a proposed 20-megawatt-capacity solar facility on about 185 acres in Cape Charles, Va. (Northampton County).  The “Cherrydale Project” is being proposed by Hecate Energy LLC, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. (online at http://www.hecateenergy.com/).  The electricity produced would be distributed by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and A&N Electric Cooperative system.  Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces Utility-Scale Solar Project in Northampton County; 20-megawatt facility to provide enough power to supply over 3,000 households, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/17/16.

10) On August 29, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that he had commissioned the Commonwealth’s first community solar project at the BARC Electric Cooperative facility in Rockbridge County, Va., serving member-owners Alleghany, August, Bath, Highland, and Rockbridge counties.  According to the governor’s office’s news release on the project, “Community solar allows customers in different locations to join together to get electricity from solar power generated at a single facility, rather than each customer having to install solar on their rooftops.  BARC builds and maintains the system, allowing customers to avoid the upfront cost of installations and continued maintenance.  …The project was funded with a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant through the state, and additional funding was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development.”  Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces Virginia’s First Community Solar Project; Governor commissions BARC Electric’s solar facility for community member-owners in the region, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/29/16.

11) On September 26, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that Hecate Energy LLC (headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.; online at http://www.hecateenergy.com/) had received a “permit by rule” for the Clarke Solar Farm, 20-megawatt-capacity solar facility in Clarke County, Va.Source:  Governor McAuliffe Announces Utility-Scale Solar Project in Clarke County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 9/26/16.

12) On October 19, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that Correctional Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Virginia Solar, LLC (headquartered in Richmond; online at http://www.vasolarllc.com/), plans to build a 20-megawatt-capacity solar facility in New Kent County, Va..  The facility received a “permit by rule” from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Construction is expected to begin in early 2017.  Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces New Solar Facility Project in New Kent County; 20-megawatt facility to provide enough electricity to cleanly power roughly 3,400 households, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/19/16.

13) On October 20, 2016, solar-energy equipment was installed as six public schools in Albemarle County, Va., totaling 1.1 megawatts of capacity.  According to a news release from the Virginia Governor’s Office, this project is “Virginia’s first public facility power purchase agreement, a partnership between the public schools and Secure Futures, a Staunton-based solar developer. …The project was partially funded by a rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The school [system] has entered into a power purchase agreement with Secure Futures that allows the school system to avoid paying upfront capital costs in return for paying a defined price for the energy generated over a set contract period.”  Source:  Governor McAuliffe Unveils Energy Plan Update Highlighting Achievements in Virginia Energy Economy; Announcement coincides with installation of solar panels at six Albemarle County Public Schools, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/20/16.

14) On January 4 2017, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had issued a “permit by rule” for two more planned solar facilities: 1) a 20 megawatt (MW)-capacity facility by Coronal Development Services on 275 acres in Dunnsville in Essex County; and 2) a 20 MW-capacity facility by Virginia Solar on 720 acres in Powhatan County.  According to the Governor’s Office news release on these permits, Virginia’s solar-energy capacity increased from 17 MW in 2014 to over 188 MW at the end of 2016.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of 2014 Virginia’s total summer electricity capacity was 26,292 MW.  Sources: Governor McAuliffe Announces 40MW of New Solar Capacity in Virginia; Permits issued for two new solar facilities in Essex County and Powhatan County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 1/4/17.  U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Virginia Electricity Profile 2014,” online at http://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/Virginia/.

15) On January 12, 2017, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had issued a permit to Sappony Solar for a planned a 20 megawatt (MW)-capacity facility in Sussex County.  Sappony Solar is a subsidiary of Dominion Energy, Inc., which in turn is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, based in Richmond.  More information about the project is available online at http://www.vasolarllc.com/project/sappony-solar/Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces New Solar Project in Sussex County; 20 MW project capable of powering about 3,500 homes, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 1/12/17.

16) Gloucester County: Strata Solar LLC (headquartered in Chapel Hill, N.C.; online at http://www.stratasolar.com/) is proposing a 20-megawatt-capacity, $30-million facility on 202 acres.  In April 2017, the county’s board of supervisors approved a conditional-use permit for the facility, with construction expected to begin sometime in 2017.  Sources: 200-acre solar farm proposed in Gloucester County, Daily Press [Newport News], 1/21/17.  Could second solar farm be built in Gloucester County?, Daily Press [Newport News], 6/5/17.

17) Hanover County: SunEnergy1 (headquartered in Mooresville, N.C.; online at https://www.sunenergy1.com/) proposing a 20-megawatt-capacity facility on 222 acres; the power would be sold to Dominion Virginia Power.  In February 2017, Hanover County approved the company’s request for a conditional-use permit.  Sources: Hanover Planning Commission approves permit for solar panels on historic Newcastle Farm, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/19/17; Hanover attracts second solar farm proposal, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/16/17.

18) Statewide: The 2017 Virginia General Assembly passed SB 1393 and SB 1395, both sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7th District), of Virginia Beach.  The bills do the following, according to the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS) summaries:
SB 1393: Requires Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to conduct a community solar pilot program for retail customers. A pilot program will authorize the participating utility to sell electric power to subscribing customers under a voluntary companion rate schedule, and the utility will generate or purchase the electric power from eligible generation facilities selected for inclusion in the pilot program.  An eligible generation facility is an electrical generation facility that (i) exclusively uses energy derived from sunlight; (ii) is placed in service on or after July 1, 2017; (iii) is not constructed by an investor-owned utility but is acquired by an investor-owned utility through an asset purchase agreement or is subject to a power purchase agreement under which the utility purchases the facility’s output from a third party; and (iv) has a generating capacity not exceeding two megawatts, subject to an exception.  Pilot programs will have a three-year duration unless renewed or made permanent by appropriate legislation.

SB 1395: Provides that certain small renewable energy projects proposed, developed, constructed, or purchased by either by a public utility (if the project’s costs are not recovered from Virginia jurisdictional customers under base rates, a fuel factor charge, or a rate adjustment clause) or by a utility aggregation cooperative are eligible for a permit by rule and are exempt from environmental review and permitting by the State Corporation Commission;
Specifies that a small renewable energy project shall be eligible for permit by rule if it is proposed, developed, constructed, or purchased by a person that is not a regulated utility;
Exempts any small renewable energy project for which the Department of Environmental Quality has issued a permit by rule from the requirement that it obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity; and
Increases from 100 megawatts to 150 megawatts the maximum rated capacity of solar and wind facilities that qualify as small renewable energy projects.
Related News Media Items
New utility solar program called a small step forward for Virginia renewable energy, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/26/17 [regarding SB 1395].

19) Statewide: In February 2017, the Solar Foundation released the 2016 National Solar Jobs Census, an annual report on U.S. employment in the solar-energy industry.  According to a March 28, 2017, news release from the Virginia Governor’s Office, Virginia ranked second in the Southeast and ninth in the nation (tied with Utah) for “year-over-year” growth in the number of solar-related jobs; and ranked 20th in the country in total number solar employment at 3,236 jobs, a 65-percent increase over 2015.  The National Solar Jobs Census is available online at http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/national/Sources: Solar Accounts for 1 in 50 New U.S. Jobs in 2016, The Solar Foundation News Release, 2/7/17.  Governor McAuliffe Announces 65% Growth in Solar Industry-related Jobs in Virginia in 2016, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 3/28/17.

20) Statewide: In February 2017, Dominion Virginia Power reported that its investments in solar energy had reached $800 million, and that about 398 megawatts (MW) of solar-generation capacity had either been installed or were under development.  In 2015, Dominion committed to placing 400 MW of capacity in service in Virginia by 2020.  Source: Dominion says solar investment reaches $800 million, Virginia Business, 2/14/17.

21) City of Charlottesville: On April 18, 2017, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the University of Virginia plans to install its first large solar project, an array of 324 panels with a 126 kilowatt capacity (0.126 megawatt) on the university’s Clemmons Library  of Governor McAuliffe Announces Solar Array Installation on UVA’s Clemons Library; Array will cover more than 7,500 square feet and is estimated to produce almost 200,000 kWh annually, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 4/18/17; and McAuliffe celebrates UVa solar project — and faces protesters, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 4/18/17.

22) Statewide: On May 1, 2017, Virginia Electric and Power Company—the Virginia subsidiary of Dominion—filed its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) and the North Carolina Utilities Commission.  According to the company’s news May 1, 2017, news release on the plan, “[t]he IRP is a planning document based on current information and projections regarding energy markets, regulatory requirements and other major factors.  While the document represents the company’s current plan for meeting the future energy needs of its customers, it is not a commitment to build or to request regulatory approval for any particular project.  The document examines options to meet the electricity needs of customers over a 15-year ‘planning period,’ while also considering a longer 25-year study period.”  The 2017 IRP outlines eight alternatives based on different assumptions about regulations and other factors.  In each alternative, the company expects to add at least 5,200 megawatts of new solar generation during the 25-year study period, with solar energy “eventually [being able to] generate electricity at maximum output to serve more than 1.3 million homes when there is sufficient sunlight.”  By 2032, the IRP states, over one-third of Dominion’s Virginia service territory could be served by solar energy combined with electricity from the company’s two Virginia nuclear facilities (North Anna and Surry), with most of the rest coming from natural gas.  Source: Dominion news release: Dominion Virginia Power Plan Sees More Clean Energy, 5/1/17; a link to the 2017 Integrated Resource Plan is available within the text.  News media articles on the 2017 IRP: Dominion Virginia Power Plans Major Solar Boost, Solar Industry, 5/2/17.  Dominion Sings New Tune, Embraces Solar, Bacon’s Rebellion, 5/1/17.  Dominion touts bigger commitment to solar in long-term power plan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/1/17.  Dominion Virginia Power could increase solar capacity by 5,200 megawatts over 25 years, Virginia Business, 5/1/17.

23) City of Chesapeake: On May 9, 2017, three solar-energy proposals came before the Chesapeake City Planning Commission: In the Centerville Turnpike Project, Tradewind Energy of Kansas was seeking approval a 15-megawatt (MW)-capacity facility on about 146 acres on Old Centerville Turnpike.  Tradewind was also seeking approval for a 20 MW-capacity facility on 176 acres between Beaver Dan and Head of River roads.  New Energy Ventures of California was seeking approval for 32 MW-capacity project on 154 acres on Ballentine Road (a property known locally as Newbern Farms).  Source:  3 proposals for solar farms take the spotlight in Chesapeake, Virginian-Pilot, 5/9/17.

24) City of Suffolk: As of May 2017, Tradewind Energy of Kansas (online at http://tradewindenergy.com/) was seeking approval for 15 megawatt capacity project on 184 acres in Suffolk.  Sources: 3 proposals for solar farms take the spotlight in Chesapeake, Virginian-Pilot, 5/9/17; Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’, “Renewable Energy Projects Notices of Intent,” online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/RenewableEnergy/RenewableEnergyProjectsNoticesofIntent.aspx.

25) City of Danville: On May 30, 2017, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced construction is to begin in August 2017 on the Kentuck Solar Project, a 6-megawatt (MW)-capacity facility for the Danville Municipal Utility.  The approximately $10 million project is to be located in Pittsylvania County.  The project is being developed by TurningPoint Energy (headquartered in Denver, Colo.; online at http://turningpoint-energy.com/) and will be constructed by Sol Systems (headquartered in Washington, D.C.; online at https://www.solsystems.com/).  Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces Virginia’s Largest Municipal Utility Solar Farm to Begin Construction in August; Kentuck Solar Project to power more than 900 homes in the City of Danville, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 5/30/17.

26) Hanover County:  As of May 2017, OneEnergy Renewables (headquartered in Seattle, Wash.; online at http://www.oneenergyrenewables.com/) has submitted a notice of intent to seek a permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a 20-megawatt-capacity solar project (known as the OneEnergy Sweetspire, LLC Project) on 165 acres in Hanover County (near Old Church along U.S. 360).  Sources: Virginia DEQ General Notice, “OneEnergy Renewables Small Renewable Energy Project Notice of Intent – Sweetspire Project,” online at https://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewNotice.cfm?gnid=701; Hanover attracts second solar farm proposal, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/16/17.

27) Gloucester County: As of early June 2017, Hexagon Energy LLC (headquartered in Charlottesville, Va.; online at http://hexagon-energy.com/) had submitted to Gloucester County a pre-application for the so-called Farin and Pearfield solar project, which would be a 100-megawatt (MW)-capacity project on 900 acres.  The 100 MW capacity would equal the largest-capacity solar projects proposed so far in Virginia; one 100 MW project has been proposed in Southampton County (see item #6 above) and two such projects have been proposed in Surry County, according to this news report the June 12, 2017, Daily Press.    Proposed solar farm in Gloucester could be largest in Virginia, Daily Press [Newport News], 6/12/17; and Could second solar farm be built in Gloucester County?, Daily Press, 6/5/17.

28) Statewide: In a June 3, 2017, commentary, Pamela F. Faggert, the chief environmental officer and senior vice president of sustainability for Dominion Energy (formerly Dominion Resources), provided the following information regarding Dominion’s current and planned solar activity: 1) Dominion could add “at least 5200 megawatts [MW] of solar generation to its portfolio…during the next 25 years…enough to power more than 1.3 million homes; 2) since 2013, Dominion has put about 1200 MW of capacity into operation in nine states; 3) by 2018, the company expects to have 700 MW of solar capacity in its own operations in Virginia and North Carolina, plus 500 MW contracted from other providers.  Sources: Column: Dominion forging ahead with cleaner, renewable energy, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/3/17; Dominion Resources plans to change name to Dominion Energy, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/6/17.

29) Albemarle County: As of June 2017, Community Power Group (headquartered in Bethesda, Md.; online at http://www.communitypowergroup.com/) was seeking negotiations with the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority to lease about 10 acres of land in Ivy for a solar project that could provide power to about 1000 homes.  The project would apparently be done as a consequence of  Senate Bill 1393 in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly, which requires Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to conduct a community solar pilot program for retail customers.  Sources: RSWA to seek deal for former landfill that could become solar array, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 6/27/17; Virginia Legislative Information System, 2017 Senate Bill 1393 summary, online at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=171&typ=bil&val=sb1393.

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