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Virginia’s 100 Percent by 2045 Clean Energy Plan


by Morris Meyer, Virginia Clean Energy

Now, let’s compare the recent Grid Modernization Bill with where we need to be in Virginia to hit a clean energy goal of 100% by 2045.  Will Cleveland of the Southern Environmental Law Center and Kristie Smith of the Virginia Conservation Network describe the Grid Bill details.

Virginia’s has a voluntary RPS that charts 15% by 2025.  It is calculated on non-nuclear power.

The Dominion 2018 Integrated Resource Plan on Figure titled “Virginia RPS Goals” charts the necessary renewable energy needed to satisfy the voluntary renewable portfolio plan.

  • 2017 through 2021 has a goal of 7% of Base Year Sales at 3,032 GWh per year.
  • 2022 through 2024 has a goal of 12% of Base Year Sales at 5,198 GWh per year.
  • 2025 through 2027 has a goal of 15% goal of Base Year Sales at 6,497 GWh per year.

Based on this data, Dominion’s nuclear generation was at a 38,598 GWh average across 2004 to 2006. Dominion claims it met its 2016 Virginia RPS Goal.

The Grid Modernization Bill charts 5,500 MW of solar by 2028 in Virginia.

Dominion claims that it will have 824 MW interconnected to their grid in 2018.

Given 10 years to 2028, this works out to 468 MW per year to reach 5,500 MW by 2028.  This is roughly what Dominion charts in its 2018 IRP.

Based on projections, this puts Dominion at 4,097 MW by 2025, which is the first year of the 15% Base Year Sales renewable goal.  Let’s use this as the marker for how close Dominion is to meeting that 2025 goal.

  • Per the Dominion 2018 IRP Figure 5.2.3 Note 1, there is a 22.86% capacity factor for solar over 35 years.
  • The Dominion 2018 IRP Appendix 2A Virginia Sales by Customer Class lists 2007 load as 81,912 GWh and the 2025 load as 93,120 GWh.
  • 4,097 MW * 8,760 hours * 22.86% capacity factor / 1,000 MW per GW = 8,204 GWh
  • 8204 GWh / (81,912 retail – 38,598 nuclear= 43,314 GWh) = 18.9% in 2007 retail total sales
  • 8204 GWh / (93,120 retail – 38,598 nuclear =  65,672 GWh) = 14.7% in 2025 retail total sales

The 2025 figure of 4,097 installed represents 18.9% of the 2007 load and 14.7% of the projected 2025 load. This points out a major weakness in Virginia’s voluntary portfolio standard in that it is indexed to 2007, instead of tracking load growth.  It could be indexed to a rolling three-year average, along with putting stronger energy efficiency measures in place.  Still, this looks like Dominion is on track to beat the 15% goal in 2025 by almost 4 percentage points, and almost makes a 15% goal based on future load projections.

Per the Dominion 2018 IRP Figure, solar is lowest cost generation at $56.38 per MWh.

Given the Dominion figure of 824 MW solar in 2018, we can work out how much of the portfolio standard in 2018 is served:

  • 824 * 8,760 * 22.86% / 1,000 = 1,650 GWh
  • 1,650 GWh / 43,314 GWh = 3.8% in 2007 retail total sales
  • 1,650 GWh / 65,672 GWh = 2.5% in 2025 retail total sales

Per the Dominion 2018 IRP Figure, new nuclear has a cost of $141.42 per MWh. These figures assume we keep the nuclear that we have going, but don’t build new nuclear, which is more expense than solar with storage, onshore wind, or offshore wind.  This is what New Jersey is doing.

The Dominion 2018 IRP calls for 20-year license extensions for Surry Units 1 and 2 in 2032 and 2033. The Dominion 2018 IRP Figure 2017 gives an energy mix of 33% nuclear and 2% renewable.

Assuming 104,270 GWh in 2045 along with 38,598 GWh of nuclear generation, this leaves 65,672 GWh of load left to decarbonize.  Note that nuclear power technically is not carbon free, as uranium mining produces CO2 and nuclear also produces 4.4 grams of CO2e per kWh in water vapor and heat.  Let’s ignore that for now.

Dominion is currently at 1,650 GWh of solar based on 2018 figures, and 3,032 GWh based on waste wood, buying RECs from other Dominion solar farms, and purchasing renewable energy on the PJM.  Let us use 1,650 GWh of solar as a starting point, as we want to foster renewable clean energy in Virginia and burning wood waste isn’t clean.

That means we have to add 64,022 GWh of renewable energy to decarbonize Virginia’s clean energy grid by 2045.

  • x MW * 8,760 hours * 22.86% capacity/1,000 MW per GW= 64,022 GWh
  • x * 8,760 * 22.86% = 64,022,000 MWh
  • x * 8,760 = 280,061,242 MWh
  • x = 31,970 MW of new solar by 2045 on the Virginia Dominion grid.

Virginia total retail electrical sales in 2017 were 111,530 GWh, and Dominion served 83,086 GWh.  Appalachian Power (APCo) projects 34,048 GWh of energy sales in 2017.  Adding up Dominion, Appalachian Power, and the Virginia electrical co-operatives should equal EIA sales, but cross-state power transfer could account for the discrepancy.

Virginia Appalachian Power is much worse.  Its energy mix is 4.4% wind, 2.7% hydro in 2017, growing to 14.5% wind, 3.2% solar, and 1.6% hydro in 2031.  Solar (and increased wind) would have to replace 69% coal and 9.9% gas in the 2031 APCo Energy Mix.  The 2031 APCo energy requirement is 34,532 GWh.

Additional renewables would have to replace 78.9% of the APCo grid, or 27,245 GWh.

  • x * 8,760 * 22.86% / 1,000 = 27,245 GWh
  • x * 8,760 * 22.86% = 27,245,000 MWh
  • x * 8,760 = 119,185,249 MWh
  • x = 13,605 MW of new solar by 2045 on Appalachian Power.

Adding both the Dominion and Appalachian Power load serving entities gives us 45,575 MW of solar.  Round this up to 50,000 MW – that is what we need to decarbonize Virginia electrical load by 2045 (or 2035).  1,000 MW of solar takes 8,000 acres, and bi-facial solar panels (solar cells on both sides) and new process enhancements will improve on that significantly.

This will take 400,000 acres, or 625 square miles, with current solar technology, which is 5 percent of Virginia’s 8.3 million acres of farmland in 2012.

Storage would be necessary to shift solar load and would come from pumped storage hydro (Bath is 24 GWh), abandoned mine storage, lithium and other battery technology (California put a 1 GWh tender out recently), compressed air energy storage, and hydrogen electrolysis.  Overnight ice chilling in the Loudoun County data centers and battery storage can also help trim peak summer load.

Offshore wind, while currently expensive, has great potential off the Virginia coast.  Offshore wind would help fill in the non-sun gaps in the generation mix and be able to charge storage.

This is a first-order calculation and doesn’t include residential solar self consumption. With the nuclear extension in 2032/2033 for Surry Units 1 and 2, this would give Virginia eight years to build out renewables to offset the 38,598 GWh load by 2053.