Out in Louisa County, where Dominion Power already runs a 250-acre solar farm, a bigger project is in the works — one that would develop up to 1000 acres of land to produce an estimated 80 megawatts of power.
Over the last year, the Central Virginian newspaper has been covering some of the developments around this ambitious solar plant to be put on land owned by Boyd Cash LLC and run by Harold Purcell.
The site would be in area between Waldrop Church Road and Harris Creek Road, near the Tanyard Golf Club.
On March 6 of this year, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors gave conditional approval to the project, after the plan ran through the county Planning Commission in February.
However, reporting shows that issues around visibility are creating a fairly costly condition for the developer.
Essentially, the board wants a 150-foot buffer of evergreens around the edge of the property, to hide the panels from the view of neighboring property owners. At least one of these property owners spoke in a public hearing on the project to recommend the tree buffer.
The new Louisa solar farm idea, which is running its way through the approval process, is just one example of what today’s companies are doing to promote access to renewable energy – but it’s a big one. This project would dwarf most of the others that have been set up on the East Coast, where one or two megawatts is a fairly common size.
This big solar farm plan also illustrates some of the issues that can arise in the course of planning a solar installation of any significant size, even one in a relatively rural area. Responsibilities such as setbacks can decrease the return on investment for a project, and limit what planners are able to do. One issue, as mentioned in discussion in Louisa County, is that trees placed in a buffer line can cast shade on some of the panels and diminish their ability to collect an optimal amount of power.
Sun Day Solar is happy to help small business leaders and property owners to brainstorm how to work with setbacks and other conditions. We have years of experience in setting up all sorts of solar projects, and a long list of satisfied customers. We can advise on applications for REAP grants and other opportunities to pursue projects in an affordable way. Get good professional backing for your renewable energy projects, to feel confident about moving forward and modernizing your business or property with sustainable energy infrastructure.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to Virginia state government policy and infrastructure development knows that solar is making its way into the picture. In a new digital report called “2017 Guide to Virginia Wind and Solar Policy,” Ivy Main describes Virginia’s solar boom from the perspective of someone who’s familiar with the state energy markets.
Main writes that “the nationwide boom in utility-scale solar has hit Virginia full force” and describes some of the factors in play. It’s not just low panel prices, she says, although solar infrastructure costs have come down. It’s not just government tax policy, either. Another factor that Main mentions is very relevant to the solar energy question — Virginia residents, she said, can often find good sites near transmission lines, which can make solar projects more feasible.
“We are a long way from unleashing our full potential,” Main writes. “In spite of this, Virginia is now attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in solar energy investments, and today the solar industry employs more of our residents than the coal industry.”
That’s saying a lot, as various corporate interests are still trying to revive the coal industry in Appalachia. At a time when renewable energy is becoming so much easier to harvest, most credible analysts would see any coal revival as a short-term phenomenon.
Later on in the report, Main contrasts the state of Virginia’s solar building record with those of other states in the region, finding that Virginia’s overall installed capacity at the end of 2016 was 238,000 kilowatts, or 238 megawatts. For reference, Maryland built 637 megawatts, while Tennessee built 171, and West Virginia built only 3.4.
In documenting the state of Virginia’s utility business, Main answers a big question — can Virginia residents access solar energy and sell it back to the grid?
Noting that Virginia’s largest utilities, Dominion and Appalachian power, have not instituted straightforward green power purchase plans, Main said most customers who want 100% solar energy need to build infrastructure themselves. Citing Virginia code 56-594, Main describes how it is possible to sell energy back to the grid, so that solar users are only charged for their net use.
All of this is exciting news for business owners or property owners who may have been on the fence about investing in a new solar project. There is the ability to easily scale these projects according to your needs, and the option of cutting your energy bills by installing solar panels somewhere on a property.
Sun Day Solar can help those in the Central Virginia area who may have concerns or questions about how to start out with a solar plan. Ask us about available government grants and tax incentives, and the most practical ways to put in place solar projects that will generate a lot of green electricity locally. Get in on the ground floor of the solar revolution and make your business or property a shining example of green power and sustainability.
This year, administrators at Monticello High School are seeing results from a solar energy project done in the summer of 2016. Solar infrastructure was installed at six schools throughout Albemarle County for a total of over 1.1 megawatts of capacity.
A press release from October of 2016 shows how the project factors into Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s “Energy in the New Virginia Economy” plan, which contemplates the use of solar to drive green business in the state.
“Today’s installation is the perfect venue to formally unveil an update on the progress we are making toward ensuring Virginia is a leader in the global energy economy,” McAuliffe said at an October 2016 ribbon-cutting for the school project. “The clean energy sector has been a central part of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy and that effort has paid off as revenue in the sector has grown four-fold to $2 billion. The Albemarle County Public Schools project embodies the countless benefits of growing the clean industry, such as lower energy bills and carbon emissions, more education for our students, and economic activity for our local businesses.”
However, before this project was the apple of the Governor’s eye, it was a grass-roots proposal from the high school students themselves.
An article in VASUN: Virginia Solar United Neighborhoods shows some of the background — in 2014, Monticello High School students wrote a letter to the school board, recommending the adoption of solar installations.
“Student concerns drove the decision-making process,” School Board member Stephen Koleszar said, adding that students were also involved with figuring out how to make the solar project cost-effective. A new type of “power purchase agreement” means the schools did not have to put down traditional up front capital to fund the solar operations.
While the Monticello school project does synchronize with the governor’s plan for bringing strategic growth in the energy field, promoting alternative fuels and pursuing workforce development, it also illustrates what happens when people in their communities make smart decisions about tackling climate change and innovating in local economies.
People are catching on that solar power has reached a critical mass where it’s now fundamentally affordable. They understand the difference between drawing power from the sun, and drawing power from finite and problematic fossil fuels resources. And that kind of knowledge is exemplary in our young people — that’s what’s on display in central Virginia, where local schools shine as prime examples of renewable power projects, and other new solar projects are still moving forward to source more local energy from renewables.
Sun Day Solar can help businesses or property owners to pursue their own solar plans. We understand the process of making solar projects practical, and we assist with advising on various grant options. Even projects like the Monticello High School project relied on certain USDA grants, and Sun Day Solar understands the process by which clients use rural development grant processes to their vantage. Let us help build a solar power project on solid ground.
Bloomberg News, one of the pre-eminent business news sources in the U.S., is coming out with revised estimates on the outlook for renewables. These show that solar is taking over in a big way — faster than most of us thought just a few years ago.
A June 15 article lays out the premise pretty clearly with the title: “Solar Power Will Kill Coal Faster Than You Think.” A projection out to 2040 shows a clear tipping point at $60 per megawatt-hour in 2021 or 2022 — after which the cost of wind and solar rapidly decreases to under $40 per megawatt-hour around 2030, while the cost of coal rockets up above the $60 mark.
All of this, as Bloomberg points out, has big new ramifications for energy markets and climate change agreements. In a way, researchers are suggesting that the sustainable energy models we work so hard to promote are actually going to occur through market forces pretty soon, and that we can drop the ideas about U.S. industry clinging stubbornly to outmoded sources of energy 20 or 30 years from now. The article breaks down projected energy consumption by the biggest current customers of coal – U.S., China and India, and shows a world map projecting the U.S. solar costs will decrease 67% by 2040.
What does this mean for businesses and homeowners right now?
Well, we’re already in a place where the solar energy is a cost-effective way of modernizing systems. Homeowners can run major systems and even, in some cases, sell energy back to the grid, and as for businesses, commercial solar customers can apply for a Rural Energy for America Program or REAP grant or other government incentives to build solar into an enterprise model.
At SunDaySolar, we can help customers in the Central Virginia region to really take advantage of current savings right now, and build new systems that will save even more money later, when big oil and big coal suddenly become unfashionable. Ask us about the way forward to a solar future, and how your business or property can get there quickly and easily.
The addition of hundreds of solar panels on the roof of the UVA Clemons Library has gotten a lot of attention this spring, in news outlets and locally, as state government officials made their appearances.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe visited the campus in April to witness the ribbon cutting ceremony for an installation that’s estimated to produce nearly 200,000 kWh of electricity each year.
“When I came into office, there were 17 megawatts of solar electricity being generated, and now there are 1,600 megawatts either approved or in production now,” McAuliffe said April 18, according to UVA Today. “And we have gone from 1,600 to 3,500 jobs in the solar industry. That is twice the number of jobs in coal in the state.” Now, the Clemons Library project is in full swing, turning the natural energy of the sun into useful services to students. But the library project is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to UVA’s aggressive move towards renewable energy.
University reports show that the university is poised to buy solar electricity from a major solar farm in Hollyfield, and will also lease building space rooftop to local energy utility Dominion, to get even more solar power into the local grid. To go even greener, UVA is also analyzing its transport fleet and looking at energy conservation in certain areas of operations, for example, in scientific lab environments.
All of the above work that the university is doing shows the passion that Charlottesville residents have about clean energy and green unity. The university isn’t the only stakeholder in the drive to make Charlottesville and Albemarle County a standard-bearer for solar power. More business owners and homeowners in the community are looking to connect themselves to that network of renewables, to source their own energy needs from the sun, rather than from coal or natural gas or oil.
SunDaySolar can help. We have experience helping clients to navigate various grant options and otherwise work toward renewables in the most affordable and efficient ways. Ask us about the potential for changing your energy model and going solar in 2017. We can help to plan the best ways to get solar installations on site for a property or commercial project. Ask us about what types of businesses can apply for REAP grants and economic opportunities to make a solar project a better deal, and what kind of solar is best for your needs.