McAuliffe, Dominion Ink 110 Megawatt Solar Deal

Electric overload!
Electricity overload!!!

by James A. Bacon

Wow, it’s electricity overload here at Bacon’s Rebellion global command headquarters, as important energy-related stories keep rolling in...

Dominion Virginia Power has reached an agreement with Governor Terry McAuliffe in which the Commonwealth of Virginia will purchase 110 megawatts of solar power from Dominion under a long-term agreement.

Dominion will build up to 75 percent of the solar capacity and third party solar developers will develop 25 percent of the capacity, according to a press release issued this morning. The company will work with various state agencies to determine the location and size of the individual facilities. Timeline for construction and costs will be determined as individual projects are scoped and developed.

One hundred and ten megawatts should generate as much energy as is consumed by the entire community college system annually. Dominion customers will not experience a rate change; any costs associated with the program will be paid by the state.

“This is another positive step toward furthering the new Virginia economy and will create jobs here in the Commonwealth while reducing the state’s carbon footprint,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “We are committed to solar energy development, and I am pleased to work with Dominion to expand renewable generation in Virginia.”

“Dominion agrees, solar generation is an important element of a low-carbon, balanced and diverse generation mix,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, CEO of Dominion Resources Inc., parent company of Dominion Virginia Power. “We are proud to partner with the Commonwealth in its pursuit of making Virginia a leader in clean energy technology.”

Bacon’s bottom line. As seems to be the case with every solar deal ever announced in Virginia, no one is revealing how much the new generating capacity will cost on a kilowatt-hour basis, much less how that cost compares to conventional power sources.

The press release does not even reveal how much the state expects to spend on this initiative. Surely that is a number that taxpayers are entitled to see. If this were a great deal for Virginia taxpayers, rather than being driven by a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions, I expect the McAuliffe administration would be crowing about it. The fact that basic numbers are not being released makes me wonder if the administration has something to hide.

Let us grant for purposes of discussion that CO2 reduction is a legitimate policy goal, a proposition I would expect many Republican members of the General Assembly to disagree with. Taxpayers have every right to expect that CO2 emissions will be achieved in the most cost-effective manner possible. I have a few questions:

How much more will this initiative cost  than purchasing ordinary, run-of-the-mill electricity from Dominion?

How much reduction in CO2 emissions will Virginia see from this initiative?

How much reduction in CO2 emissions could be achieved by investing the money elsewhere, such as in energy-conservation measures? Did the McAuliffe administration ever consider such an alternative?

What is the reasoning behind purchasing this electric power through Dominion Virginia Power, as opposed to contracting directly with third-party developers?

Is the McAuliffe administration working on comparable deals with Appalachian Power Co. or the Old Dominion Electrical Cooperative, or is this a Dominion-only deal?

Given Dominion’s desire for a balanced energy mix and its stated commitment to add at least 400 megawatts of solar generating capacity by 2020, would this 110 megawatts of solar capacity be built anyway without the state’s involvement?

As always, asking the questions that no one else will….

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10 responses to “McAuliffe, Dominion Ink 110 Megawatt Solar Deal”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Wowie-Zowie! One hundred and ten megawatts is about 1/15th the output of North Anna’s nukes.

    Let’s give Dominion the Nobel Peace Prize!

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    sounds like the same thing the US Navy or Amazon is doing, eh?

    so McAuliffe , the Navy and Amazon have done what Dominion thought they had successfully convinced the GA to not let happen.

    so now when Dominion tries to turn down others who want to do the same, its going to look bad… that they allow some to but not others.

    at some point – investors and businessmen are going to go to the GA and ask that they be allowed to compete.

  3. Jim, this one’s a winner: “What is the reasoning behind purchasing this electric power through Dominion Virginia Power, as opposed to contracting directly with third-party developers?”

    All McAuliffe had to do was issue an RFP for 110 MW of contract purchases from solar developers. The State could begin its purchase immediately by buying from the PJM renewables market while those contract sources were under construction. But he did not — why not?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I think McAuliffe looks good for doing this one.

    2. I may be mistaken, Acbar, but I believe that state and local governments are not authorized under the law to “shop” for their electricity, but instead must purchase from the local supplier.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    and I think there is some “you scratch my back and…” going on…



    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Like his pal Bill Clinton (and many other Pols from both sides of the aisle), Terry McAuliffe is very good at back scratching.

  5. Help me with the math. Let’s say Dominion actually installs 500 MW solar by 2020…that’s about the size of medium size coal fired power plant. How does this count in the overall mix? Is this 500 MW total? or is it 500 MW x utilization factor say 20% = 100 MW overall power?

    1. TBill, I expect the 500 MW figure will be nameplate capacity AC, since solar cells produce DC that needs to be converted to AC before being sent to the grid (or, for rooftop installations, into the premises).

      As a member of PJM, DVP must supply by producing or buying a certain amount of capacity. Solar has a capacity factor of around 35%, if I recall correctly, so the 500 MW of power producing capability would translate to about 150 MW of DVP’s capacity obligation. Obviously, solar power output is 0 MW during the dark hours and is degraded during cloudy conditions.

      During ideal sunny conditions, the array should supply 500 MW to the grid.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: the “math”..

    good questions – and all the more reason to ask how long we expect natural gas to be a “bridge” fuel…


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