The Bulletin

Coalfield stalwart Appalachian Power adds first solar projects to generation portfolio

By: - October 28, 2021 12:43 pm

The Leatherwood Solar project in Henry County, Va. (Appalachian Power Company)

Appalachian Power, the primary electric utility supplying Virginia’s coalfields region, has begun drawing power from solar. 

On Thursday, the utility announced it has added 20 megawatts of solar power from Leatherwood Solar in Henry County to the portfolio of facilities it relies on to generate energy for Virginia customers. Leatherwood, which began supplying the utility at the end of August, is expected to produce enough energy to power approximately 3,600 homes. 

Appalachian Power also announced it plans to add another 35 megawatts from solar farms in Campbell and Wythe counties in the next few months.

Company spokesperson Teresa Hall confirmed that the projects are the first solar to be added to Appalachian Power’s generation portfolio.

The utility is acquiring the power from all three of the facilities through power purchase agreements.

Chris Beam, Appalachian Power’s president and chief operating officer, said in a news release that the agreements “demonstrate our commitment to providing affordable clean energy for our customers and meeting the targets established by the Virginia Clean Economy Act.” 

The act, passed by the General Assembly in 2020, commits Virginia’s electric grid to becoming carbon-free by 2050. Among a broad package of new obligations utilities must meet, the Democrat-championed legislation set specific annual renewables targets that Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy must hit or else face penalties. 

Additionally, Appalachian Power must propose 600 megawatts of solar and wind resources by the end of 2030, with 35 percent of those new resources being obtained through power purchase agreements with non-utility developers.

This spring, state regulators approved the utility’s plan to develop 210 megawatts of solar by the end of 2023.

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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.