Roanoke Times: Virginia celebrates National Clean Energy Week
By Lee Vogler
National Clean Energy Week is an opportunity to bring together individuals, businesses, nonprofits and industry associations to discuss common sense clean energy solutions that directly address our need for abundant, reliable energy while preserving the environment. Our capacity for safe and reliable energy generation from wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, hydro, geothermal, biofuels and carbon capture technologies are driving a clean energy renaissance that is creating jobs, strengthening national security and preserving our environment.
Here in Virginia we are seeing sustained clean energy growth. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), as of the second quarter of 2019, Virginia has 802 megawatts of solar energy installed. That is a nearly a 608% increase from the 115 megawatts installed in 2018. Prices have fallen 32% over the last 5 years. There is now enough solar installed in Virginia to power over 90,000 homes. There are over 3,800 jobs directly linked to the solar industry, and the total investment represents $1.06 billion.
Virginia is also on the cusp of becoming a leader in offshore wind energy and is uniquely positioned to be a leader in coastal offshore wind development. Dominion Energy, in partnership with Orsted, launched a pilot program to build two 6-megawatt wind turbines on a site leased by the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME). This project is the first fully permitted wind project in U.S. federal waters and is only the second offshore wind project in the nation. Dominion also just announced their intention to build the largest offshore wind farm in the country which will bring 2,600 megawatts of wind power to the state.
Advanced energy technologies such as battery storage are being deployed across the Commonwealth as well. Virginia is already home to the largest battery in the world, the Bath County Pumped Storage Station. Plans have been announced to build a second pumped hydro storage facility in Southwest Virginia — an economic potential of $320 million for the coalfields region and over 2,000 jobs during construction. Thanks to Virginia’s Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, it authorized up to 30 megawatts of utility storage battery pilots to help curb the use of more fossil fuel generation.
Much of the growth in clean energy technologies is largely due to the overwhelming support of Virginians. From our most recent public opinion poll, 88% of voters agree that we should accelerate the growth of clean energy to allow innovation and entrepreneurs to drive economic growth and job creation. 86% of voters agree that Virginia should give businesses and consumers more choices about how to transition to clean energy.
It is clear that clean energy also means economic development. More than 43 Virginia based companies are committed to powering their operations with 100% renewable energy, and 21 of Virginia’s 50 largest employers have set targets to procure more clean energy. Just last year we saw Microsoft announced the single largest corporate purchase of solar energy in the United States to be located in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Companies are looking at communities that have more renewable energy in their portfolio.
As vice-mayor of Danville, that is one reason why we have decided to embrace solar energy. Danville Utilities now has three solar farms under development that once completed, renewables will power 22% of our generation mix. Danville’s investment in solar energy shows how a rural community can position itself in a more competitive posture for economic development.
As we recognize Clean Energy Week in Virginia, I want to celebrate our accomplishments and renew our efforts to continue to advance clean energy in the Commonwealth. Together we are creating a clean energy environment in Virginia that is helping create a cleaner grid and healthy economic future for Virginia businesses and residents.
Vogler is the Vice-Mayor of Danville. He currently serves on the advisory board for Conservatives for Clean Energy Virginia.