Left to Right: Ryan Hodum, David Gardiner & Associates; Jason De La Cruz, Dominion Energy; Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Scott; Ken Jurman, Department of Mines, Minerals, & Energy
Last week, the Center for Rural Virginia hosted its annual Governor’s Summit for Rural Prosperity at the Berry Hill Plantation in Halifax County, Virginia. More commonly known as the “Virginia Rural Summit,” this year’s summit included an outstanding panel discussion titled “Clean Energy as an Economic Development Tool.” The discussion was moderated by Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), Chairman of the House Commerce & Labor Committee, and the panelists were Ken Jurman, Renewable Energy Program Manager, VA Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), Ryan Hodum, Vice President, David Gardiner and Associates, and Jason De La Cruz, Grassroots & Local Government Relations, Dominion Energy.
The event kicked off with Delegate Kilgore, giving brief opening remarks on the importance of pursuing an all-of-the-above approach to energy development, and this led into the recent growth of Virginia’s clean energy industry – particularly rural Virginia. Chairman Kilgore introduced Ken Jurman with DMME to talk about the current state of Virginia’s renewable industry and future opportunities for the Commonwealth.
Jurman began by comparing Virginia’s solar capacity to our neighbor states. According to Jurman, there are currently 174 MW being generated in Virginia. This is significantly behind North Carolina which is generating over 2,400 MW of renewable electricity, and Maryland which is generating 508 MW of renewables. There is a lot of room for growth in renewable electric generation. There are 63 projects totaling nearly 2,400 MW of renewable electricity currently proposed in Virginia. 10 projects are already permitted and ready to be built. Jurman also talked about the potential Virginia has to lure major offshore wind manufacturers to our state. Because of our assets like a natural deep water port, a highly skilled workforce, and our location in the Mid-Atlantic, Virginia is well positioned to become the hub of offshore wind manufacturing.
Next on the panel was Ryan Hodum with David Gardiner & Associates (DGA). DGA recently published a study titled, “The Growing Demand for Renewable Energy Among Major U.S. and Global Manufacturers.” The study finds that 25% of manufacturers have established renewable energy targets. Their analysis also finds that enabling access to renewable energy sources is a critical factor for a state’s attractiveness to these manufacturers and other large buyers of renewable energy. Renewable energy development in Virginia is critical to our economic competitiveness both in terms of drawing in new companies with renewable energy goals but also to retain the ones we currently have.
Jason De La Cruz with Dominion Energy then gave an overview of pumped hydro storage development in Virginia. Right now in Bath County, Virginia, Dominion Energy operates the largest pumped hydro facility in the world. Pumped hydroelectric storage facilities act as large batteries that store energy. When excess energy is available, power is used to pump water from a lower elevation reservoir up to a higher elevation reservoir providing grid stability. The water is stored in the upper reservoir until a later period when energy is in demand. At that point, the water is allowed to flow downhill to a power generation facility where it spins turbines. The turbines turn generators that produce electric power that is then delivered to the electric grid.
During the 2017 session, the Virginia General Assembly recognized the value of pumped hydroelectric storage projects by passing Senate Bill 1418, sponsored by Sen. Ben Chafin (R-Lebanon), and House Bill 1760, sponsored by Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), and Del. Todd Pillion (R-Abingdon). The bills authorize electric utilities to apply to the Virginia State Corporation Commission for permission to construct pumped hydroelectric storage facilities in Virginia’s coalfield region. At least part of the energy stored in such facilities must be generated by renewable resources. The coalfield region localities also agreed to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement to allow for the entire region to benefit from these types of projects.
The panel concluded by taking a wide range of questions from the audience. The panel did an excellent job of conveying the potential for renewable energy development in rural Virginia. There is a great deal of opportunity to meet consumer demand for renewable energy by locating projects in rural Virginia. The map below is just one example of how renewable energy is transforming rural Virginia.