King George coal plant to be converted to solar and storage

The coal-fired Birchwood Power Plant in King George is being converted to a solar and storage facility. (Free Lance-Star)

The owner of a former coal plant in King George County intends to redevelop the site as a solar and energy storage facility in another move by Virginia’s power sector away from fossil fuels to renewables. 

J-POWER USA, a subsidiary of Tokyo-headquartered power producer J-POWER, announced earlier this April that it plans to repurpose the former Birchwood Power Plant as part of what CEO and President Mark Condon called the company’s “plan to increase our renewable portfolio and continue our efforts to build a cleaner sustainable energy future.” 

Birchwood was closed on March 1, roughly a year after then-joint owners J-POWER and GE Power publicly announced its retirement due to “market trends and facility economics.” GE Power has since sold its share of the project. 

Birchwood had been in operation since 1996 and had sold power to Dominion Energy through a power purchase agreement. 

New plans for the site call for a 50 megawatt solar plant combined with a 190 megawatt energy storage facility. 

The move is in line with a state policy shift in 2020 that aims to transition the state’s electric grid to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050 both by requiring electric utilities to meet annual renewables targets and by putting a price on carbon emissions through participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. 

This December, state regulators instituted permitting rules for new energy storage facilities of one megawatt or larger. Non-utilities that aim to build energy storage must receive approval for their project from the State Corporation Commission.  

Several other combined solar and storage proposals have been proposed this year, including the Pigeon Run project in Campbell County and the Shockoe Solar project in Pittsylvania.