Solar facility purchased: Dominion, Amazon acquire High Rock Road project

Published 10:10 am Friday, November 18, 2016

Dominion Energy Inc. has purchased Virginia Solar LLC’s solar energy facility slated for High Rock Road in Buckingham County.

According to a Dominion press release, the long-term power purchase agreement is between a Dominion subsidiary, Dominion Energy Inc., and an affiliate of Amazon’s cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services. The solar facilities purchased as part of the Virginia Solar agreement are expected to enter service in late 2017, officials stated in the release.

“The developments … are expected to expand Dominion’s operating eight-state solar fleet to 1,400 megawatts by 2017, including 434 megawatts in North Carolina and Virginia,” according to the release.

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Dominion said in the release it’s also purchasing solar projects in New Kent, Powhatan, Sussex and Southampton counties in addition to the Buckingham Solar Project.

“We’re hopeful to do more solar projects,” said Virginia Solar LLC Manager Matthew Meares. “This, obviously, is bringing good publicity to Buckingham County.”

In mid-August, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) issued a permit for the $35 million solar energy facility in Buckingham. Ten percent of the project cost — $3.5 million — is expected to contribute directly to the local economy, officials said.

In November 2015, county supervisors granted the firm a special use permit to operate and construct the facility.

Once complete, the 19.8-megawatt project will be the first utility-scale solar generator of its kind in Buckingham, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Construction of the approximately 200-acre facility is expected to begin early next year and be completed by the end of 2017.

“It’s obviously beneficial to the landowner,” Meares said. “There’s about to be a lot of construction going on. That will be good for the local economy.”

According to the permit request, the facility will be capable of generating 20 megawatts of electrical energy. The project could produce about 40 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power up to 4,500 homes, according to Virginia Solar.

The project will employ solar arrays, panels, photovoltaic modules and inverter stations.

“AWS has publicly shared its long-term goal to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for its global infrastructure, and will exceed its goal of 40 percent renewable energy usage by the end of 2016,” officials said in the release.

“This solar expansion is great for Dominion, Amazon and the commonwealth of Virginia,” Dominion Chairman, President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell II said. “It helps AWS meet its renewable needs, it expands Virginia’s clean electric generation fleet, and it creates economic development opportunities in largely rural communities.”

According to county documents, Robert and Lillian Johansen own the 210-acre parcel where the project is slated to be located.

“We picked the site because (of), honestly, the Buckingham County (utility) substation,” Meares said. “If you can’t get your power to market it’s not worth very much. Next, we were looking for just a county … we could get a project permitted in. That played a big role. Buckingham County was honestly our first conditional use permit we received for a project here in Virginia.”

Earlier in the year, County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter said she understood the solar source is part of a requirement from the Federal Energy Regulatary Commission for power companies to have a certain amount of solar energy in the mix.

“I am sure a power company will be purchasing the credit of this solar energy source from the company that is building the solar farm,” she said at the time.

The facility could draw up to 150 workers during construction, according to the permit application.

Meares said the company is “very pleased and thankful” to Buckingham and the commonwealth for supporting a “100-percent Virginia-owned and -operated utility scale solar developer” by approving the permit.

“We continue to ramp our sustainability efforts in areas where availability of renewable energy sources are low or proposed projects are stalled, and where the energy contribution goes onto the same electric grid that powers AWS data centers,” AWS Vice President Peter DeSantis said in the release. “By enabling 10 utility scale renewable projects in the U.S. to date, we are well-positioned to meet our latest goal of 50 percent renewable energy powering the AWS global infrastructure by the end of 2017.”