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Del. Ken Plum: Shedding Light on Solar Energy in Virginia

by Del. Ken Plum September 13, 2018 at 10:15 am 12 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

While many of us express concern that we do not see as many solar collectors on Virginia roof-tops as we would like, the Commonwealth is showing significant progress on turning sunlight into electrical energy. As with any major change there are some hazy areas that need to be considered as well.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) as reported in the August 2018 issue of Virginia Business magazine, Virginia currently ranks 17th nationally with 631.3 megawatts of installed solar capacity. The ranking is a significant jump from 2016 when the state ranked 29th nationally. Even with the advanced standing, only 0.59 percent of the state’s electricity comes from solar. By way of contrast, North Carolina is second in the nation in installed solar capacity with 4,412 megawatts brought about by generous tax incentives. For North Carolina that is nearly five percent of their electricity supply.

Virginia’s future with solar appears bright with 59 notices of intent with the Department of Environmental Quality to install 2,646 megawatts of solar according to the Virginia Business article. Driving the expansion of solar energy is a sharp drop in price from $96 in 1970 to 40 cents per kilowatt this year and an insistence on the part of technology giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, all of whom have a presence in Virginia, that their electric power come from solar systems. The Grid Transformation and Security Act passed by the General Assembly this year requires 5,000 new megawatts of solar and wind energy to be developed. Included in that total is 500 megawatts of small, roof-top panels.

Middlesex County Public Schools opened this year with two of its three schools powered by solar energy. Although a small, rural school system, Middlesex has the largest ground-mounted solar system of any school division in the state and is expected to save over two million dollars per year. Excess electricity generated is sent to the grid for credit for any electricity the schools takes from the grid at night through a net-metering arrangement.

Some shadows along the way can be expected with such a massive shift in the way electricity is produced. It takes about eight acres of land for each megawatt produced. Solar farms take up large amounts of land. Just last week the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors voted to deny a conditional-use permit for a 178-acre utility scale solar facility in the County. The supervisors indicated that they had questions about the project for which they did not receive adequate answers. One factor is likely to have been the results of a study by the American Battlefield Trust that indicated the project would be visible from some of the half-dozen signal stations around Culpeper County that were used during the Civil War to detect troop movement. The County depends on a high level of tourism based on its Civil War battlefields and apparently does not want to jeopardize its attraction to Civil War buffs.

The clouds will pass, and Virginia is on its way to a bright future with solar energy.

File photo

  • Alibaba

    What a timely article. People are scrambling to prepare for the largest hurricane Inc 1000 years and KP talks about the sun.

    Kp. Pls reveal the number of positions held.

    • Stop Exaggerating

      No, it’s not the largest hurricane in 1000 years, where did you find that information? And who is scrambling to prepare for a hurricane that isn’t coming anywhere near us? You’re talking nonsense.

  • drb

    I personally have looked at solar and wind turbines for my personal home. I even went down to the out skirts of Richmond to help with the installation of a wind turbine.

    First, the turbine installation was a success. It was not for the faint of heart though. Fortunately, the owner had a front end loader on a farm tractor. Without it there would not have been a turbine installation. I have asked the owner to keep me up to date with how well it subsidized his electricity use. I received an email for the first month with optimism but not so great results. The second month the optimism was gone and the third month there was no email. Never heard from him again.

    Second, I have called on solar companies to come give me prices on systems up to 5kw. Everyone that I consult from solar advocates to sales people they all are so pumped up for me install.

    When I ask about the math not showing savings. That it takes 20+ years to recoup the investment of which the warranty for the system is then over. Not to mention the down turn in production as the years go by. They dismiss the facts and want to talk about the environmental savings. They basically admit that it is not economical.

    Conclusion: This is why there is a push for higher taxes on our electric use. It is the only way to make wind and solar competitive in the free market. But then it would not be a free market. So i do not have a wind or solar system and am saving money every day.

  • Trump Voter

    But, muh coal!

  • KennyP

    Hey Ken, just a heads up I reported the damaged guard rail on Wiehle Ave (both sides) to the VDOT via their website. I know you’re often too busy doing whatever it is you do, to be concerned with whats happening in your own back yard. I do hope one day we can elect a person that does.

  • 30yearsinreston

    Another article which highlights Kens stupidity and lack of research
    Electricity generated does not have to be near the consumer thats why most solar generation is in sunny areas
    I smell another tax increase

    BTW when is he going to get off his backside and help fix the Reston traffic mess
    I guess he is too busy blowng hot air and lecturing us to do his job

  • 30yearsinreston

    The DRB will never allow solar panels
    Besides the trees make them ineffective
    Put them on the roofs of Hudgins towers

  • Walter Hadlock

    I have checked into Solar. Since we’ve lived here awhile, we have a mature Maple tree that shades much of the south part of the roof. The Solar representative’s first comment about making solar viable was “cut down the tree”. Right away I know solar was not in the mix. The tree provides great shade in the Summer. That along with a high efficiency heat pump means our electricity use in the Summer is under 1,000Kw for our all electric home. Also, Dominion Energy has some of the lowest rates of any provider in the country. The solar rep. reluctantly agreed with me that the math did not work when it came to solar. I understand the environmental side, and as Mr. Plum notes, Dominion is moving into the solar arena. The downside is the extraordinary amount of land it takes for a viable solar farm. Maybe when inexpensive storage products become available, I’ll take another look. As the saying goes “when the sun doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow” you need a reliable electricity provider.

  • Greg
  • Greg

    Here’s the solar power output in the entire PJM region of more than 65,000,000 electricity users. 240 megawatts out of 116,000 total: less than 0.002%, and all of it heavily subsidized. And, of course, 0 megawatts at night.

    https://pjm.com/markets-and-operations.aspx

  • Malcol6

    “30yearsinreston” is mistaken that RA’s DRB will not approve solar PV panels on homes, Want to know more? October 6 and 7 are “National Solar Open House” days (https://nationalsolartour.org/tour-locations/). RSVP to visit October 6 12824 Tournament Dr 20191 (bit.ly/solaropenhouse-423) or October 7 1435 Waterfront Rd (20194). https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6d547fe2c7a2dbce2f69abd3960c91407790c9d5199419e98469f90f525d0622.jpg

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