Dominion OK’d to buy power from county solar facility

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved two prudency petitions from Dominion Energy Virginia (Dominion). One petition is related to an agreement to purchase solar power from an independent developer of an 80-megawatt solar facility to be located in Halifax County. 

The other is related to a 12-megawatt offshore wind construction project to be located nearly 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. 

The solar project petition approved by the commission is structured very differently from the offshore wind project. 

In finding the solar project to be prudent as a factual matter, the commission noted that the proposal involves purchasing solar power from private developers and, unlike the offshore wind project, will therefore protect customers from bearing financial, performance and other risks. 

The commission also noted that Dominion conducted a competitive bidding process that produced a price to customers for the solar power project that is in line with the market. The solar facility is expected to begin operating in the latter part of 2020. 

The purchase power agreement with Water Strider Solar LLC has a term of 20 years. 

In May, supervisors granted a conditional use permit for Water Strider to build an 80-megawatt solar power facility on 960 acres fronting Stage Coach Road at its intersection with Jenny’s Ruff Trail and Bull Creek Road in Nathalie.

The offshore wind project consists of two wind turbines to be built by Dominion that would begin operating in December 2020. In its factual findings, the commission determined that the company’s proposal puts “essentially all” of the risk of the project, including cost overruns, production and performance failures, on Dominion’s customers. Currently, the estimated cost of the project is at least $300 million, excluding financing costs. 

The commission found that the offshore wind project was not the result of a competitive bidding process to purchase power from third-party developers of offshore wind. Doing so would likely have put all or some of the risks on developers as has been done with other offshore wind projects along the East Coast of the United States. The commission also found that any “economic benefits specific to [the project] are speculative, whereas the risks and excessive costs are definite and will be borne by Dominion’s customers.” 

The commission concluded that the offshore wind project “would not be deemed prudent [under this commission’s] long history of utility regulation or under any common application of the term.” 

However, the commission ruled, as a matter of law, that recent amendments to Virginia laws that mandate that such a project be found to be “in the public interest” make it clear that certain factual findings must be subordinated to the clear legislative intent expressed in the laws governing the petition.

Dominion Energy Virginia is moving forward on clean energy projects, from sources such as solar and wind, to meet its commitment of 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy in operation or under development by 2022. 

The company has already taken several steps in the three months since announcing the goal:

• Surveying non-residential customers about their renewable energy needs

• Seeking bids for up to 500 megawatts of solar and onshore wind 

• Requesting approval for 240 megawatts of solar generation in Virginia 

• Receiving approval for a Community Solar Pilot for residential, commercial and industrial customers

• Continuing plans to build two six-megawatt wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach

• Engaging with a broad array of stakeholders on future solar development

• Planning a Request for Proposals (RFP) for up to 50 megawatts of smaller scale solar projects in 2019

In the past four years, Dominion Energy’s solar fleet in Virginia has flourished. At the beginning of 2015, the company’s solar portfolio totaled just over 1 megawatt. At the time, the company set a goal of 400 megawatts under development in Virginia by 2020. It now has 824 megawatts in operation or under development in Virginia.

The Virginia expansion will add to the parent company’s solar fleet, which is the fourth largest in the nation. With more than 3,300 megawatts of renewable energy resources either operational or under development across 10 states, Dominion Energy is an industry leader in renewable energy. 

The company’s solar fleet in Virginia will nearly quadruple in size under the company’s commitment of 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy in operation or under development by 2022. 


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