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Monticello High School Solar Monticello High School is one of 6 public schools outfitted with solar panels in Albemarle County with zero capital investment. Together the arrays total over a MW of generating capacity. Image: Secure Futures

Solar Projects Soar

Posted 1 November 2016 by Carol Brighton

A Virginia School District Shines as the Commonwealth advances a Strategic Vision for Clean Energy

Over a megawatt of solar power capacity has been installed on 6 Albermarle County Public Schools. The school district is the first in Virginia to commit to a power purchase agreement (PPA) which facilitates an energy installation without any up-front costs. A third party, in this case Secure Futures, a finance company based out of Staunton, Virginia, owns the systems installed by Mountain View Solar and Grid Electric. They in turn sell the power generated to the school district for a fixed price over the course of the agreement. The arrays are expected to meet 22% of the six schools' electric requirements and save the school system $76,000 over a 20-year time frame. Money that would otherwise be spent on power can now be utilized to enrich student programs. In addition, students are exposed to and learn about the benefits of renewable energy, which is among the fastest growing job sectors in the country.

At the dedication ceremony for the last of the six installations at Monticello High School on October 2o, Governor McAuliffe unveiled an update to the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan where it is noted that appropriations in the 2016-2018 energy budget have been tripled to include "three new full-time positions dedicated to providing Virginia with a strategic vision for driving clean energy industry growth."


Community Solar

The Albemarle County dedication follows on the heels of more solar milestones in the Commonwealth. Virginia's first community solar installation is now operational. On August 29, the Governor was on hand to flip the switch at the customer owned electric cooperative serving Bath, Allegheny, Augusta, Rockbridge and Highland counties. BARC's solar farm was built upon a retired school soccer field. 212 customers subscribed to the initiative from across BARC's entire electric system and there's a waiting list to join the program. The project will provide 25 percent of the energy needs for subscribers who will enjoy a fixed rate for 20 years for the solar portion of their utility bill, providing a hedge against rising electric costs. The community program offers rate payers like renters, who have limited energy choices, the opportunity to enjoy a clean energy option. A solar education center has also been established at the facility, housed in the school, and tours of the system are offered.

The Governor of Virginia, Secretary of the Navy & Dominion CEO sign an energy initiative agreemnt on a ceremonial solar panel at Ocean Naval Air StationOceana Naval Air Station on August 2, 2016 - The Governor of Virginia, Secretary of the Navy & Dominion CEO sign a renewable energy initiative agreement on a ceremonial solar panel. Image: U.S. Navy by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Yarborough

Solar Provides Resilience & Security

Earlier in August, the Governor joined by Dominion CEO, Tom Farrell, and the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced plans for a utility scale solar farm at NAS Oceana. The 21 MW direct current (DC) or 18 MW alternating current(AC) solar power installation at NAS Oceana will be sited on close to 100 acres of base property leased to Dominion. The project is scheduled to be go online by the end of 2017. Power from the 180,000 panels will go to the base, Naval Station Norfolk as well as the grid and will generate enough capacity to supply energy to 4,400 homes. The project along with a 25 MW DC solar facility in Pasquatank, NC will help the Navy fulfill a commitment to power on-shore bases with 50% alternative energy. According to Mabus, a 2020 goal of procuring 50% of on-shore power through alternative sources has been reached ahead of schedule. "Not only did we meet the one GW goal ashore five years early, we surpassed it -- reaching 1.1 GW by the end of last year. In doing so we've achieved, $90 million in nominal energy cost savings, $62 million in energy security hardware upgrades to bases, 170 megawatts of access to power during outages and 22 million tons of CO2 abated. And we are just getting started," said Mabus. "Today, the State of Virginia, the Hampton Roads community, Dominion Virginia Power and our Navy and Marine Corps are joining together to add to our success, to protect the future of NS Norfolk and NAS Oceana, and to enhance national security for the American people." 

Eclipsing the Oceana farm in scope and scale, a humongous 210 MW direct current facility is going online in the Arizona desert. The Sempra Mesquite Solar 3 project will supply one-third of the electricity to 14 military bases in California. The power purchase agreement is touted as the largest federal procurement of renewable energy. At the dedication ceremony on October 14, 2016, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations & Environment, Dennis V. McGinn noted, "the 14 Navy and Marine Corps installations that will be receiving the power produced by Mesquite Solar 3 will be getting more than just clean, renewable power. They will be getting increased energy resiliency and security, which is crucial to maintaining our mission readiness." The list of installations that will be provided solar energy from the Mesquite 3 Solar farm include: Naval Base (NB) San Diego, NB Coronado, NB Point Loma, NB Ventura County, Naval Support Activity Monterey, Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Seal Beach, NWS Seal Beach REPO Fact Sheet for Solar Installation at NAS OceanaDetachment Norco, NWS Seal Beach Detachment Fallbrook, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport. More information about the Oceana project can be found in the flyer.

Read more about renewable energy in the region & a solar training program for transistioning vets at Tidewater Community College on the Tidewater Current Energy Page.

View more Tidewater Current Features here.



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