RD546 - Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority Annual Report – November 18, 2016
In 2015, the Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority (“VSEDA” or “the Authority”) for the purposes of facilitating, coordinating, and supporting the development, either by the Authority or by other qualified entities, of the solar energy industry and solar energy projects. The Authority aims to accomplish this by developing programs that increase the availability of financing for solar energy projects; facilitating the increase of solar energy generation systems on public and private sector facilities in the Commonwealth; promoting the growth of the Virginia solar industry; and providing a hub for collaboration between entities, both public and private, to partner on solar energy projects. The enabling legislation for the Authority can be found in Appendix A.
The Authority is composed of 11 non-legislative citizen members: six members were appointed by the Governor, three members by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, and two members were appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules. A listing of the appointed VSEDA members can be found in Appendix B.
2015 was the inaugural year for VSEDA. It was also a year of significant growth for solar development in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Distributed solar generation (net metered) grew from approximately 1,900 installations totaling 13.8 megawatts at the beginning of 2015, to 3,200 installations totaling 27.3 megawatts at the end of September of 2016.
While distributed solar once made up the vast majority of total installed capacity, utility-scale solar has surpassed distributed projects with the completion of the 80 megawatt Amazon Solar Farm US East in Accomack County owned by Dominion Energy, Inc., a subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc.
• In addition to the 80-megawatt project in Accomack, Dominion Energy, Inc. also announced a major expansion of its solar alliance with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Inc. on November 17, 2016 to add an additional 180 megawatts of solar generating capacity in five Virginia counties. Construction of the facilities will be enabled through long-term power purchase agreements between Dominion Energy, Inc., and an affiliate of Amazon's cloud computing business, AWS. The solar facilities are expected to enter service in late 2017.
o Four 20-megawatt projects being acquired from Virginia Solar LLC in the following Virginia counties:
• Buckingham County
• Powhatan County
• New Kent County
• Sussex County
o A 100 MW project in Southampton County, Virginia.
• Dominion Virginia Power also has a number of other utility-scale projects in various stages of development. Dominion has:
o Installed over 6.5 megawatts of distributed solar as part of their Solar Partnership Program. Dominion is authorized to construct and operate up to 30 megawatts of company-owned solar facilities on leased rooftops or on the grounds of commercial businesses and public properties throughout their service area
o Received approval from the State Corporation Commission (SCC) for three projects totaling 56 megawatts, which are now under construction
o Applied for approval to build a 20 the megawatt Remington project in Fauquier County in partnership with Microsoft and the Commonwealth
o Announced an 18 megawatt solar energy facility at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia. As part of the Governors Solar Initiative, the Commonwealth, in partnership with Dominion Virginia Power, has committed to meeting eight percent of the electric requirements of state facilities, or 110 megawatts, from solar. The Naval Air Station Oceana project will help achieve this goal.
• Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) awarded two contracts to Hecate Energy to deliver the full output of two solar projects totaling 30 megawatts to be located in Northampton and Clarke Counties. Hecate applied to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for permitting under DEQ’s Permit by Rule program and permits were awarded in August and September 2016.
• Central Virginia Electric Cooperative plans to build two 5 megawatt solar electric generating facilities along the Interstate 64 corridor.
• Two municipal utilities are moving forward with plans for multi-megawatt solar projects:
o The Town of Bedford plans to advertise for a “solar franchise”. The franchise will give a developer the right to develop a solar facility with the town agreeing to buy the electricity. The anticipated size of the project will be three megawatts.
o The City of Danville is working with a developer to build a six megawatt solar project, with the city purchasing the output. This project is included in the Permit by Rule projects listed above, and the developer is seeking Qualified Energy Conservation Bond funding through the VirginiaSAVES Green Community Program.
• Notices of Intent to apply for permits under DEQ’s Permit buy Rule program have been submitted for an additional twenty-four projects totaling 813 megawatts.
This rapid growth of the utility-scale solar industry in Virginia has the potential to bring significant benefits to the Commonwealth. It can also have negative consequences if not done responsibly. Continued engagement and support between all stakeholders is essential to ensure that Virginia develops its solar energy resource in a sustainable manner, which can support the growth in high-tech and high-paying jobs in the energy sector.
While utility-scale solar has the greatest potential for rapidly growing solar capacity, smaller distributed solar installations enabled through third-party power purchase arrangements (PPAs) are important avenues to growth for the overall solar energy market in Virginia. For example, Albemarle County Public Schools is the first public school district in Virginia to use solar energy under a PPA at six of the district’s schools. The 1 Megawatt solar photovoltaic system will use over 3,000 panels to meet 22% of the six schools’ annual electricity requirements. Similar projects have also enabled Eastern Mennonite University and the University of Richmond to meet a portion of their power requirements using solar energy.
A detailed list of known solar projects installed or under development as of this writing is included in Appendix C. These projects include net metered projects, utility projects that have been announced, completed or are under construction, and projects by independent developers who have submitted Notices of Intent to apply for a Permit by Rule from the Department of Environmental Quality.
An additional list of projects can be found in Appendix D. This Appendix includes projects listed in the generation interconnection queue for PJM Interconnection (PJM), the regional transmission organization in which Virginia participates.
Solar and other generators at transmission level voltages that request interconnection with PJM, and want to participate in PJM’s wholesale power markets, must execute an Interconnection Service Agreement. Generators at local distribution or sub-transmission voltage levels may also request to participate in PJM’s wholesale power market. However, they may not be under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission jurisdiction regarding the nature of their interconnection request. If not jurisdictional, each such generator must sign a Wholesale Market Participation Agreement instead of an Interconnection Service Agreement upon completion of all required reliability studies. A Wholesale Market Participation Agreement defines the terms and conditions under which PJM wholesale power market participation will be conducted. It also contains a milestone for the generator to execute, separately, an interconnection agreement with the local electric distribution company in accordance with the respective state’s own established process. It should be noted that many of these projects may also be listed in Appendix C.