Dominion is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 26,400 MW of generation; 15,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering, and storage pipeline, and 6,600 miles of electric transmission lines. Dominion operates one of the nation’s largest natural gas storage systems with one trillion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves more than six million utility and retail energy customers.
Currently, Dominion has approximately 994 MW of solar capacity operating or under construction in Virginia and North Carolina. Dominion has several solar programs in Virginia, including a solar purchase program, a solar partnership program, and a net metering program. It is also developing a utility-administered community solar program.
Through the Virginia Solar Pathways Project, Dominion has been identifying opportunities and challenges to expand solar energy programs; examining technical, economic, and programmatic considerations and creating a statewide strategy for Virginia.
To craft this strategy, Dominion is working closely with a group of stakeholders and partners that includes advisors from Old Dominion University; Virginia’s Community College System; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy; the City of Virginia Beach; Bay Electric Co., Inc.; and the Metro Washington Council of Governments.
The advisory team participated in four training sessions in the spring of 2015 to help develop a common understanding of the electric grid, the distribution system, the economics of solar, and soft costs. Advisors received basic training in the areas of transmission and distribution grids, generation resources and technologies, solar program models, market and regulatory issues affecting deployment, and the current status of solar in Dominion’s service territory. The below training materials were used to establish a common foundation of technical and regulatory understanding for the project’s advisory team.
The advisory team has helped review and guide the project’s four technical studies (see below) and developed a consensus framework.
To guide their decisions, Dominion commissioned a series of studies aiming to facilitate the system-wide integration of solar generation:
DG Transmission and Distribution Grid Integration Study: This study provides a roadmap for the utility to safely and reliably integrate increasing amounts of distributed generation solar DG into the distribution system. The analysis and results address certain elements of the full cycle of solar DG, from interconnection requests and protection requirements to impact studies and operating on the grid. The study is designed to provide a framework under which Virginia and other regional utilities can evaluate solar impacts with regard to dynamic impacts and technologies that enable the integration of greater amounts of DG.
Solar PV Generation System Integration Impacts Study: This study examines how greater quantities of residential and utility-scale solar PV interact with the existing electric generation portfolio. The analysis includes an investigation into potential generation system modifications that will facilitate the integration of increasing amounts of solar generation as part of a sustainable utility-administered solar program.
Utility-Administered Solar Program Economic Study: Dominion partnered with NREL to complete this study, which evaluated opportunities to reduce soft costs of solar generation such as site acquisition and financing. Because of their potential to reduce the installed costs of solar energy and the pivotal role electric utility companies play in each, the three main topics selected for the report were: (1) the potential for soft cost reductions through utility-administered solar, (2) utility involvement in community solar development in the Southeast, and (3) the financial impacts of tax normalization policy on utility-led solar development.
Community Solar Program Study: The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) completed this study of existing community solar programs across the country in order to provide insight into existing program design and performance, as well as the customer experience. SEPA interviewed program managers at nine investor-owned utilities who currently offer community solar programs, and surveyed 409 community solar program subscribers. The study is a valuable compilation of lessons learned and will inform Dominion’s development of a community solar program.
Guided by the conclusions and findings of the comprehensive studies, the Dominion team will be working in 2017 to develop their statewide strategy and utility-administered community solar program. The project team will also work with the Core Advisory Team and their community college partners to develop a solar workforce development strategy for the Commonwealth.