Dominion accelerates solar and storage buildout plans 

Proposal calls for more than a gigawatt of new renewable capacity

By: - September 21, 2021 12:02 am

Dominion Energy’s Whitehouse solar farm in Louisa County generates 20 megawatts on a 250 acre site. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is imposing more stringent stormwater regulations for solar development. (Dominion Energy)

A plan filed by Dominion Energy with state regulators last week for how it intends to comply with the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a 2020 law that will require the electric utility to be carbon-free by 2045, calls for an acceleration of the company’s deployment of solar and storage. 

The company is proposing the development of more than double the storage and solar it submitted to the State Corporation Commission for approval last year. Plans call for more than a gigawatt of new renewable capacity, with 918 megawatts coming from new solar and 103 megawatts from new storage. 

Last year’s plans, which were approved by regulators in May, outlined the development of about half a gigawatt of capacity. At the time, Dominion Energy president, chair and CEO Bob Blue told investors on a call that the 2021 proposal would “be larger in scale.” 

In a Thursday release, Dominion Energy Virginia president Ed Baine called the current proposal “the largest expansion of solar and energy storage in Virginia history.” 

In addition to outlining yearly targets for the percentage of Dominion’s and Appalachian Power’s energy portfolios that must come from renewables, the Virginia Clean Economy Act requires Dominion to propose 16.1 gigawatts of solar and onshore wind, 5.2 gigawatts of offshore wind and 2.7 gigawatts of energy storage projects by 2035. 

The utility has tangled with some consumer protection and environmental groups over whether the law mandates that regulators approve the development of those amounts of renewables or whether it simply requires Dominion to propose them, leaving it up to regulators to evaluate whether projects are “reasonable and prudent.” 

Under Dominion’s most recent proposal, ownership of the solar and storage sources would be divided between the utility and non-utility developers, with the latter owning 286 of the overall 1,021 megawatts. 

The VCEA requires that 35 percent of new generating capacity be obtained by Dominion through contracts with non-utility owners, a provision intended to encourage the continued growth of the renewables industry in Virginia. 

Among the Dominion-owned solar projects being proposed, the largest would be the 150 megawatt Walnut Solar project in King and Queen County, the 80 megawatt Piney Creek Solar project in Halifax County and the 80 megawatt Fountain Creek Solar project in Greensville County.   

To meet another VCEA goal, last week’s filing also included 46 megawatts of distributed generation, nearly all of which would be acquired through power purchase agreements with other companies. 

Combined, the projects will cost customers roughly $71 million this year. If the SCC approves all of them, Dominion estimates that the average residential customer will see his or her monthly bill increase by about $1.13.

This story has been updated to note that the $71 million in costs is for this year. 

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.