Category Archives: Energy

What Dominion Has Learned From Its Experimental Wind Turbines


by James A. Bacon

Dominion Energy spent $300 million to erect the two wind turbines now standing about 27 miles off the Virginia coast, a sum that could never be justified by the 12 megawatts of generating capacity they add to the grid— enough to power only 3,000 homes. The real benefit will come later, when Dominion builds a proposed 180-turbine wind farm expected to generate 2,640 megawatts of capacity, enough to power up to 600,000 homes, at a projected cost of $7.8 billion.

Thanks to the data gathered from the two experimental turbines, Dominion officials say it will need 40 fewer of the multimillion-dollar turbines than it had originally anticipated, a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, from the experience of leasing an expensive, hard-to-book installation vessel, Dominion is investing $500 million, risking shareholders’ money not ratepayers’ money, which will serve other East Coast windfarm projects as well as Dominion’s at a lower cost than chartering a European vessel.

Company officials say they have learned other odds and ends from the experimental turbines that will inform their safety and environmental efforts going forward. Continue reading

From Farming Corn to Electrons

Dominion solar farm. Photo credit: Dominion.

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

In light of recent denials by local governing bodies, there has been some skepticism expressed on this blog as to whether the Commonwealth could meet its goals on solar energy. Going against recent trends, however, has been the city of Chesapeake.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, the city council recently approved an application to build a 900-acre solar farm. This most recent approval about doubles the size of three previously-approved projects. It is estimated the project will cost $100 million. The company anticipates generating 118 megawatts, enough to power about 20,000 homes.

The land involved is now prime farmland. An interesting aspect of this project is that is an amalgamation of acreage from multiple owners. Continue reading

With Defeat in Connecticut, Will Virginia Drop TCI?

By Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Why do Virginia’s leaders run away from the Transportation and Climate Initiative? Could it be because the first state legislature to consider it, in reliably Democratic Connecticut, just adjourned without even taking a vote on the proposed carbon tax compact, despite strong support from Democratic Governor Ned Lamont?

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has called a June 24 public meeting to discuss efforts to ramp down carbon dioxide emissions from transportation sources, but it made no mention of the pending TCI interstate compact. Instead it focused on the General Assembly’s approved 2045 goal of “net zero” emissions in all sectors of the economy, including transportation. Continue reading

Getting Electricity from Government

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

More than 300,000 Virginia residents and numerous commercial enterprises are not subject to the monopolistic electric rates of Dominion, APCO, or the electric cooperatives. They get their electric service from their local governments.

There are 16 municipalities in which electric service is provided by a governmental entity. Primarily, they are small towns (some surprisingly so) and small cities. They include the towns of Bedford, Blackstone, Culpeper, Elkton, Front Royal, Richlands, and Wakefield and the cities of Bristol, Danville, Franklin, Harrisonburg, Manassas, Martinsville, Radford, and Salem. Most intriguing of all is the Virginia Tech Electric Service, established by the university to provide electric service to the campus and the residents and businesses of Blacksburg.

These municipalities purchase most of their electricity from private companies such as American Electric Power Company. Several, such as Martinsville and Bedford, also use hydroelectric power for a portion of their needs. Continue reading

Democrats Fight Back as Boss Bills Cracks Whip

Michael Bills

by Steve Haner

Two Virginia Democrats who have been loyal soldiers in the army to turn Virginia green as well as blue are under attack in the June 8 primary for the sin of accepting campaign donations from Dominion Energy. It doesn’t matter to the attacker – our old friend Clean Virginia — that Dominion is moving in lockstep with the Democrats to undermine Virginia’s reliable generation mix and replace it with expensive and unreliable renewable power.

The House Democratic Caucus is responding by attacking the “dark money billionaires” who are going after their colleagues. Who? By that they would have to mean that same Clean Virginia, funded mainly by the personal fortune of hedge fund mogul Michael Bills and his wife. The same two people who did more than anybody to give Democrats that majority in the first place.

More proof, in case you needed it, that it is not your enemies you need to watch in politics but your friends. The Democrats started to lose their grip on this state 20-30 years ago because in their lust for power they fell out among themselves, and here we go again. Bring popcorn.

The basics: Delegates Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth and Candi Mundon King, D-Prince William, face primary challengers. The primary challengers have received major funding from something new called Commonwealth Forward PAC. But as The Virginia Star reported this morning, its money actually comes from Bills and Clean Virginia.  Continue reading

The Electrification of Everything

by James A. Bacon

The world economy is rapidly electrifying. Driven by new technologies and the environmentalist push to decarbonize the economy, an increasing share of the energy Americans consume will come out of the electric socket, reports the Wall Street Journal in a special report. “Instead of having fuels like natural gas or oil or gasoline flow directly into our homes, offices, manufacturing facilities and cars, those fuels — and other sources of energy — will increasingly be converted to electricity first.”

A Princeton University study finds that electrifying buildings and transportation could double the amount of electricity used in the United States by 2050, lifting electricity’s share of total energy from about 20% today to close to 50%.

Electrification offers the ability to harness renewable power sources, primarily wind and solar, to displace carbon fuels that contribute to global warming. But it does present the challenge of maintaining the integrity of the electric grid in the face of natural disasters, cyber attacks, and other challenges. While many environmentalists consider global warming to be an existential threat to humanity, a collapse of the electric grid accounting for 50% of all energy consumption would pose an equally existential threat to human well being — within the next two or three decades, not by the end of the century. Continue reading

Another One Bites the Dust

Utility-scale solar projects are getting shot down like Hamas rockets.

by James A. Bacon

From today’s news dump courtesy of VA News:

The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected an application by Dynamic Energy LLC to build a five-megawatt solar facility on 40 acres of farmland near Bealeton, reports Fauquier Now. “When I looked at this,” said Supervisor Rick Gerhardt, “I didn’t want to take solid farmland out of production. Those are good soils on that property. For me, I do not want to see that removed from farming.” The county planning commission had rejected it previously by a 3 to 2 vote.

Meanwhile, Round Hill Solar LLC has withdrawn a plan to develop 560 acres of solar panels from the Augusta County Board of Supervisor. The planning commission had already determined that the plan conflicted with the county’s comprehensive plan that took location, character, and extent of the project into consideration, reports the News Leader. Continue reading

Gas Shortages: Deja Vu All Over Again

Photo credit: New York Post

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s like old times. 1979 to be exact.

Just 3 1/2 months into the Biden administration and we’ve gone from energy independence to gas lines.

What’s next, 18% percent mortgages? Or will Joe borrow Jimmy Carter’s old cardigan and urge us all to turn down the thermostats?

Yep, everywhere I went yesterday it looked a lot like it did 32 years ago. Long lines of cars snaking around gas stations. Exasperated drivers pounding their steering wheels.

I remember 1979 well because I was living in Northern Virginia and the odd/even gas rationing was chaotic. I became so desperate for fuel for my diesel VW Rabbit that I actually siphoned gallons out of the heating oil tank at my house one day.

I can still taste it.

Yes, I know that’s illegal. I believe the statute has run on that crime. Continue reading

Bacon Bits Does Electric Grid

Source: “Electricity Sales Forecast for Virginia: 2020-2050”

Boom times ahead for electricity. Electricity demand in Virginia will grow 30%, give or take, over the next 15 years as more energy-consuming data centers are built and more Virginians drive electric vehicles, writes Bill Shobe, a University of Virginia professor who supports the transition to a net-zero-carbon electric grid, in a new report. Electricity use could grow by more than 78% by 2050, the state’s deadline for achieving net zero. The increase will occur despite gains in energy efficiency that have flattened electricity demand growth in recent years.

Where will all that power come from?

Relicensing the nukes. Dominion Energy’s four nuclear units at the Surry and North Anna power stations produce about one-third of the utility’s electricity. The units, originally designed to last 40 years, are licensed to operate another 20 years. Dominion is seeking regulatory approval to extend the licenses yet another 20 years. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has recommended granting that approval for the two Surry units. But some environmentalists are opposed. Continue reading

TCI Model Rule Ready for Study, Comment

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  (Happy birthday, Mr. President.)

Read the governing document for the Transportation and Climate Initiative and it becomes clear there is more going on than just an effort to reduce motor fuel use with a combination of taxes and shrinking caps. That may really be a secondary goal. Continue reading

Virginia Electric Rates: Low/Moderate Now But Heading Higher

Average electricity rates in rates in Virginia were 20th lowest in the nation in 2019, according to a survey based on U.S. Energy Information Administration data by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The average price per kilowatt hour was 9.52 cents.

But Virginians could lose their moderate electricity rates in the future as it joins the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative  (RGGI) and moves towards the goal of a 100% renewable electric grid by 2050, emulating policies of the Northeastern states with among the highest electric rates in the country. Continue reading

The Transmission Bottleneck for Renewable Energy

by James A. Bacon

You want more renewable energy? You’re going to need more high-voltage transmission lines to move intermittent wind and solar power around the country to balance fluctuating supply and demand. And you’d better get started. Transmission planning and construction involves long lead times, typically between seven and ten years.

“The window may be closing to develop the needed transmission expansion to enable the optimization of clean energy, meet state clean energy objectives, and other ‘voluntary’ demand for low-cost renewable energy,” summarizes a new study, “How Transmission Planning & Cost Allocation Processes Are Inhibiting Wind & Solar Development in SPP, MISO, & PJM.” Continue reading

Podcast: How the General Assembly Has Changed

By Peter Galuszka

I haven’t contributed much to BR lately since I am slammed with non-Virginia work. I did manage to help out on a Podcast about how the General Assembly has changed the state over the last two years as Democrats have gained power.

This Podcast is produced by WTJU, the University of Virginia radio station. I do a weekly talk show on state politics and economics and, on occasion, work on Podcasts.

Joining me is Sally Hudson, a delegate from the Charlottesville area. She is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics. Sally studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford and is one of the youngest members of the General Assembly.

I hope you enjoy it.

Surprise! State Underestimated Carbon Tax Cost

by Steve Haner

Virginia has collected its first wave of carbon taxes from the state’s electricity generators, costs which will eventually show up on future bills. The $43.6 million take just about doubles the revenue estimates used when participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was being approved by the Virginia General Assembly last year. Surprise!   Continue reading

In the Face of Local Resistance, Can Virginia Meet Its Solar Goals?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia needs to build dozens of square miles of solar panels if there is any hope of reaching the goal of a zero-carbon electric grid by 2045 in Dominion Energy territory and 2050 across the state. The General Assembly can compel the state’s electric utilities to purchase the solar power but it can’t compel anyone to develop the solar farms, especially if local governments are opposed.

Numerous solar projects have been approved — including, most recently, $400 million in a 280-megawatt in Pulaski County, so there’s no question that solar will be a big part of Virginia’s energy future. But are enough projects getting approved?

The odds are looking slim for a $200 million, 149-megawatt proposal by North Carolina-based Strata Solar in Culpeper County. County staff had expressed concerns about the proposed 1,700-acre Maroon Solar power plant, and yesterday the planning commission unanimously recommended denial of the plan, reports the Culpeper Star-Exponent. Continue reading