“Old Dominion State” Greening The Grid

State Overview

The population of the “Old Dominion State,” Virginia is approximately 8.71 million people[1]. Virginia is the 12th most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, Virginia’s economy was ranked 13th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the biotechnology, computer chip manufacturing, software, agriculture, forestry, tobacco, fishing, and tourism industries[3].

Environmental Policies

In 2010, the Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Offshore Wind Energy Development Authority to support the development of the offshore wind industry for the state.

In 2018, Virginia Governor Northam released a strategic energy plan to modernize the electric grid and set goals for renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.

In 2020, Virginia enacted a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, requiring all utilities to sell 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050[4].

In 2020, Virginia joined Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market-based collaborative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Power Generation Capabilities

In April 2023, utilities used natural gas (42.8%), nuclear power (40.0%), renewable energy (14.4%), and coal (2.7%) to generate electricity in Virginia[5]. Biomass, hydropower, solar, and wind were the dominant types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Virginia.

In April 2023, the average cost of residential electricity in Virginia was 14.65¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 16.11¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Virginia include:

  • 2,640 MW Offshore Wind Project – American power company, Dominion Energy is continuing work on 2nd phase of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project at a site approximately 30 miles off Virginia Beach. The offshore wind project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2026.
  • 1,000 MW Solar + Energy Storage Projects – In December 2022, Dominion Energy commissioned fifteen new solar and energy storage projects across the state.
  • 800 MW Solar Project – Virginia solar company, SolUnesco is continuing work to develop the Randolph Solar project at a site approximately 85 miles southwest of the state capital, Richmond. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2025.
  • 498 MW Solar Projects – In December 2022, Dominion Energy commissioned nine utility scale solar projects across the state.
  • 150 MW Solar Project – Canadian solar company, Recurrent Energy is continuing work on the Firefly Energy solar project at a site located approximately 100 miles southwest of Richmond. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2024.
  • 12 MW Offshore Wind Project – In July 2020, Dominion Energy commissioned the 1st phase of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind The offshore wind project is located approximately 27 miles off the coastal town of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  • 3 MW Community Solar Project – In December 2021, solar panels were commissioned in seven public schools in Isle of Wright County in eastern Virginia.

Conclusion

Coal was first commercially mined in Virginia[6] in 1748. In 2021, Virginia produced 10.69 million tons of bituminous coal from 8 underground and 24 surface mines[7].

In 2010, 36.8 % of Virginia’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[8]. In April 2023, only 2.7% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the dramatic decrease ?

  1. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[9].
  2. EconomicsThe cost to generate electricity from coal is more than double the cost to generate electricity from renewables, like solar or wind.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Unlike many states, Virginia first developed a comprehensive plan to achieve 100% zero-carbon electricity generation, before implementing legislation.

Virginia has now completed the modernization of its regional power grid, which is essential for the development of new renewable energy projects. The Old Dominion State is progressing toward a zero-carbon electric grid.

 

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”
www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio, podcast, and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy issues.

[1] Virginia Population 2023, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Virginia – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Virginia State Profile and Energy Estimates

[6] Virginia Geological Survey – Coal Mining History, .

[7] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Annual Coal Report 2021, October 2022

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Virginia Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

[9] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, 3/3/2019

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