Going Green in Virginia

Environmental Series

In 2013, the Solar Energy Industries Association says installations were up 41% nationwide, with North Carolina ranking third for installed solar capacity and Maryland 16th, but neighboring Virginia was far down the list at number 26. 

Thirty states, including West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, have land-based wind farms, but Virginia has none. 

Virginia is blessed with wind – in the mountains and along its shores, so you might expect this state to jump quickly into the business of generating electricity from  turbines. 

Likewise, there’s plenty of sunshine, but Dominion Virginia Power’s preferred plan for 2027 shows just four percent of our electricity coming from renewable sources. Appalachian Power will be at 9% by 2020, but most of that energy will come from existing hydro-electric dams. 

Despite concerns about climate change, Virginia’s largest electric utility still generates more than half of its electricity from fossil fuels, and by 2027 Dominion Power expects to get  nearly 60% of its power from coal and gas. 

The state’s other electric utility, Appalachian Power, is also big on carbon-based fuel.  By 2020, parent company AEP says 79% of its power will come from burning coal and gas. 

Secure Futures

Critics say Virginia lags behind neighboring states in the development of wind and solar power, in part because lawmakers are influenced by two monopolies – Dominion and Appalachian Power. 

It’s more profitable for them to stay with fossil fuels and nuclear power, and the state requires them to keep prices down, but supporters of renewable energy say lawmakers are coming around. 

It’s been sixty years since the first solar panel was developed by Bell Laboratories, and more than twenty years since the first solar plant began feeding power into the grid in California, but here in Virginia there are fewer than a thousand households producing and selling electricity back to Dominion Power. 

Wind turbines are also rare, but  reports that could change quickly if government and the public got on board.