Virginia Reserves Big Spots For Solar, Wind In New Energy Plan

Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., has released a new energy plan that calls for 3 GW of solar and onshore wind by 2022 and 2 GW of offshore wind by 2028.

The 2018 Virginia Energy Plan provides a strategic vision for the commonwealth’s energy policy over the next 10 years. The plan builds upon the implementation of the Grid Transformation and Security Act (S.B.966), which Northam signed into law earlier this year.

Among other recommendations, the plan calls for a comprehensive grid modernization planning process to facilitate the implementation of S.B.966. In addition to the solar, onshore wind and offshore wind targets, it calls on Virginia’s utilities to collectively invest $115 million per year in energy efficiency programs.

“The clean energy sector has the power to create new business opportunities, expand customer access to renewable energy and spark the high-demand jobs of the 21st century,” says Northam. “Virginia can shift to a more modern electric grid that is reliable, affordable, resilient and environmentally responsible – and the commonwealth can lead this critical industry as a result. This plan sets an ambitious path forward for Virginia, and I am confident we will charge ahead towards progress over the course of my administration.”

The recommendations for solar and onshore wind include at least 3 GW by 2022 of the 5 GW deemed in the public interest under S.B.966. The recommendations also include an expansion of corporate clean energy offerings; enhanced collaboration on siting large solar and wind projects; and expansions of net metering, power purchase agreement and community solar programs.

The recommendations for offshore wind focus on supporting the development of the offshore wind resource itself, as well as growing the supply chain. The plan includes support for a 12 MW offshore wind demo and a recommendation to establish a goal that the full 2 GW of offshore wind potential in Virginia’s wind energy area be developed by 2028.

On the energy storage side, the recommendations focus on energy storage as an emerging technology that can dramatically impact the grid. The plan recommends increased collaboration as Virginia moves forward with a comprehensive evaluation of energy storage technologies.

The plan also recommends setting lead-by-example targets for Virginia’s state agencies, including 16% renewable procurement and 20% energy efficiency targets by 2022.

“With its 2018 Energy Plan, the commonwealth of Virginia has taken another important step to expand solar energy and promote innovative technologies over the next 10 years,” comments Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Governor Northam deserves credit for his leadership on clean energy and for establishing goals that are aligned with business and the public’s desire for energy that is affordable, creates jobs, protects the environment and grows Virginia’s economy. The solar industry will work with policy leaders, manufacturers and installers across Virginia to meet these benchmarks.”

SEIA notes that Virginia is currently ranked 17th in the nation for its 635 MW of installed solar capacity.

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) is charged with developing and submitting the Virginia Energy Plan to the governor’s office, the State Corporation Commission and the General Assembly. DMME facilitated a stakeholder engagement process that included six public listening sessions, a 60-day comment period that garnered nearly 1,000 comments and a series of stakeholder engagement meetings.

“DMME made a diligent effort to ensure every stakeholder and citizen had a say in Virginia’s energy future,” says John Warren, DMME’s director. “We heard from hundreds of individuals on policy recommendations to increase access to solar and wind, energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicles.”

The plan cites a written comment from a stakeholder:

“A more adaptable and dynamic grid has many benefits to Virginians and the Virginia
economy. It can more effectively integrate new sources of energy of varying generation capacities from multiple locations. This includes small-scale solar on a consumer’s home, energy storage facilities in southwest Virginia, medium-sized wind farms on ridge tops and large-scale offshore wind off the Virginia coast.”

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