MD DC DE VA Solar Energy Industries Association

Solar in the Spotlight at Virginia Energy Events

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Jun 18

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One thing was clear at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Conference: Virginia is shifting toward renewable power, faster than ever before.

Cybersecurity, grid resiliency, and corporate commitments to clean energy dominated the conversation. On an energy policy panel, Virginia State Senator Frank Wagner, Delegate Terry Kilgore, and Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler enthusiastically touted the cost-savings, economic development and fuel diversification that accompanies solar power. While Senator Wager raised concerns about the State Corporation Commission (SCC) and Virginia becoming a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), they all remained confident that solar will be a large part of Virginia’s energy future.

From left: Delegate Terry Kilgore, Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, Senator Frank Wagner, President of VA Chamber of Commerce, Barry Duval. Photo: Virginia Chamber of Commerce

Kilgore and Wagner are champions of the recently passed Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, a new bill that will shape the future of solar in Virginia. Here are the top 3 provisions affecting solar energy development in the Commonwealth:

  1. It increases the amount of Utility-Scale solar deemed in the public interest from 50 MW to 5,000 MW, and adds an additional 500 MW for Distributed Generation
  2. It creates a battery storage pilot program for both Dominion and APCo
  3. It requires both Dominion and APCo to develop energy conservation plans

The  Grid Modernization bill is already making Virginia more attractive  to corporate buyers seeking more solar energy. Jim Reinhart, COO of QTS Data Centers discussed corporate interest in renewable energy to power the energy-intensive data centers cropping up in the Commonwealth. Reinhart emphasized that solar’s favorable, consistent economic return are quickly enabling it to become the go-to energy source in the tech industry.

After the conference, MDV-SEIA hosted the second annual panel discussions and reception event focusing on the state of solar energy in Virginia. The panels took a closer look at both the utility-scale and rooftop markets, discussing the grid modernization legislation (SB 966), recent decisions from the State Corporation Commission (SCC), the development of new land use educational materials, and the launch of a workforce development initiative in southern Virginia.

From Left: Rachel Smucker, Secure Futures, Aaron Sutch, Solar United Neighbors of Virginia, Devin Welch, Sun Tribe Solar, Thad Culley, Vote Solar

The main takeaways are two-fold: (1) that large-scale solar is propelling the solar market and (2)  there are opportunities to increase the incentives and remove barriers to distributed generation in order for more residential customers to benefit from solar energy. Keith Harkins, a representative from Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) expressed his enthusiasm for the potential benefits from a program that would train Virginia-based solar workers to enter the utility-scale solar installation field. Panelists agreed there is robust local demand for this type of work and a supply of workers who are willing and capable to gain a new skill set.  

The energy conference made it abundantly clear that the future of solar in Virginia is, to say the least, bright.

Our Quick Take:

  • Energy stakeholders in Virginia convened on Wednesday the 23rd at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Energy Conference. Solar was a big topic.
  • State Senator Wagner, Delegate Kilgore, and Secretary of Natural Resources Strickler praised solar, and despite some disagreement on Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, concluded that solar will be a big part of Virginia’s future.
  • COO of QTS Jim Reinhart explained that solar is becoming increasingly attractive for tech companies like Apple and Google that run data farms in Virginia.
  • MDV-SEIA hosted an event with panel discussions for solar stakeholders in Virginia. Speakers discussed recently passed legislation, opportunities and challenges for solar in the Commonwealth and a new training program for utility scale solar installers in Southern Virginia.

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