Home Dominion Power Lots of Questions, Comments About Gov. Northam’s Solar/Wind Power Announcement

Lots of Questions, Comments About Gov. Northam’s Solar/Wind Power Announcement

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See below for a press release from Gov. Northam’s office. A few comments/questions I’ve got include:

  • Is this NEW solar and wind power capacity, in addition to projects already planned or under development? Or is it more taking power that’s already planned or under development and directing the power towards the state government? Obviously, the former would be far, far better than the latter. As far as I can tell, the Rocky Forge Wind Farm was approved in March 2017, so that’s not particularly new. As for Belcher Solar, that was first proposed back in 2016, so not sure how new that is either. For its part, Walnut 1 Solar appears to have been proposed last spring. Not sure what the status of Bedford Solar is. Finally, there’s a “TBD Solar Facility,” which presumably *is* new solar power capacity.
  • Dominion clearly has its fingerprints all over this deal, which makes me wonder a few things, starting with whether or not there was an opportunity for actual *competition* – you know the “free market” that conservatives claim to love so much? Also, wonder how well Dominion makes out here, and whose idea this deal was in the first place.
  • The cost of the power mostly seems reasonable, with one big exception: $34/MWh for the solar (although for whatever reason going up 2% per year after that, even though the cost of solar power keeps falling), and $35/MWh for the wind (although it then, inexplicably and for no apparent good reason, shoots up to $53.58/MWh in Contract Year #6, even though onshore wind costs have been falling and are anticipated to continue doing so).
  • I really could do without the over-the-top hyperbole, particularly the comment about how “The positive impact that this procurement will have on Virginia cannot be overstated.” In fact, this deal seems…ok, but with the caveats noted above, plus the fact that it’s only a tiny step towards a 100% clean energy economy.
  • When on earth are we going to get the cheapest form of energy – namely, energy efficiency – big time in Virginia? It’s long past time for some serious “decoupling” of Dominion’s profits from constantly generating more and more power. For more on this subject, see Ivy Main’s excellent post about how we’re headed the wrong way.
  • And why does everything have to be centralized power controlled by…yep, Dominion? Can we ever get any serious movement on distributed power, like rooftop solar, or what? Oh yeah, I guess Dominion (aka, “the Commonwealth’s utility” as the press release calls it, in a cringe-inducing but unintentionally revealing aside) doesn’t want that because they can’t control it. Hmmm.
  • Finally, my standard caveat to all this stuff: we absolutely *CAN NOT* be considered serious about moving off of fossil fuels and towards 100% clean energy as rapidly as possible when we’re allowing the construction of two massive new fracked-gas pipelines, with the combined greenhouse gases equivalent of 45 (!) new coal-fired power plants. If Gov. Northam is serious, he will use all the power he has to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline from being completed. So far, though, there’s zero sign of him lifting a finger to do that.

Governor Northam Announces Largest State Renewable Energy Contract in the Nation 

~ New agreement to purchase 420 megawatts of solar and wind energy follows historic month for clean energy in Virginia ~ 

ARLINGTON—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a landmark agreement representing the largest contract that any state has negotiated to buy renewable energy to power state government. This historic state contract will ensure that by 2022, 30 percent of the electricity consumed by state agencies and institutions in Virginia comes from renewable sources, meeting an ambitious goal the Governor set forth last month in Executive Order Forty-Three.

The agreement with the Commonwealth’s utility, Dominion Energy, includes 75 megawatts of wind energy from Apex Clean Energy, in what will be Virginia’s first-ever onshore wind farm. Apex Clean Energy is working with state and local authorities to develop the Rocky Forge wind energy project in Botetourt County. And with another 345 megawatts coming from solar energy projects, this partnership will supply the Commonwealth with 420 megawatts of renewable energy, which is the equivalent of powering more than 100,000 homes.

“With this landmark contract, Virginia is leading by example and demonstrating how states can step up to combat climate change and advance a clean energy economy,” said Governor Northam. “Moving our Commonwealth toward cleaner, renewable energy will require innovation, bold commitments, and diverse partnerships. Today’s announcement follows an historic month for renewable energy in Virginia—I am proud that this agreement will help us achieve our clean energy targets and secure a healthier environment for future generations.”

Executive Order Forty-Three sets new statewide clean energy goals for the Commonwealth, including having 30 percent of Virginia’s electric system powered from renewable sources by 2030, and 100 percent of electricity coming from carbon-free sources by 2050.

“This is an historic announcement for renewable energy growth in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The positive impact that this procurement will have on Virginia cannot be overstated, and we look forward to more clean energy businesses coming to the Commonwealth as we take these proactive steps to support this industry’s growth.”

The Commonwealth has worked with Dominion Energy to begin construction of the first offshore wind project in federal waters, consisting of two six-megawatt wind turbines. The demonstration project is set to be completed by the end of next year and is the first step toward the development of the full 2,600 megawatt offshore wind resource off Virginia’s coast, which equates to powering 650,000 homes.

In recent weeks, the Northam administration has made several major announcements about Virginia’s transition toward additional renewable energy deployment. Last month, Governor Northam announced that the Commonwealth will dedicate $20 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to help Virginia public school districts replace older diesel school buses with electric buses.

Governor Northam also recently announced four new solar projects that are expected to generate 192 megawatts of electric power. Since Governor Northam took office in January 2018, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued 23 permits for solar projects that will generate more than 800 megawatts of energy, and the agency expects to permit an additional 478 megawatts for seven projects by the end of this year.

“Clean and renewable energy is a critical key to fighting climate change and is one of the most effective tools we have to address and mitigate these impacts,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Today’s announcement, along with several other clean energy related initiatives currently underway, clearly demonstrate that Virginia is serious about investing in clean energy, reducing carbon emissions, and cleaning up air pollution to improve our environment.”

The full text of the agreement announced today is available here.