shared solar community energy programs
Submitted by Ellen and Don Elmes
7902 Pea Patch Road
Jewell Ridge, VA 24622
Here is a written summary of our comments given at the Reenergize SW Virginia Listening Session at Richlands High School on July 6, 2021:
We are speaking here tonight as homeowners and public utility customers in Southwest Virginia. We’ve lived on a mountaintop in Jewell Ridge on the Buchanan County side of the road for almost 50 years. We have long been interested in providing at least some of our electrical power needs by use of solar panels for solar power generation. When, during the past year, we finally looked into installing solar panels on the rooftop of our house, we realized by looking at an aerial view of our property on Google Maps how totally and tightly our house is surrounded by thick forest foliage – a fact that prohibits our use of solar panels, (unless we cleared hundreds of trees from surrounding land!), as the panels would receive only short hours of sunlight daily.
But we’ve been heartened to learn recently about the possibilities for solar energy development offered to communities around the nation by “shared solar,” (also called “community solar”), projects. This is a way that interested citizens can subscribe, through the payment of their monthly energy bills, to a shared community solar energy system offered by the local power company. Through this system, customers receive energy credits from specific panels on their monthly electricity bill, reducing the cost of their energy consumption. Local citizen stakeholders then have the chance to work together to boost solar industries in their area – providing more jobs, industrial growth, and solar access to everyone, including schools, low-income residents who live in apartments or multi-family housing, or people like us who have too many trees!
The problem in Southwest Virginia, however, is that shared solar programs are not available. Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy utilities have been “allowed” by the Virginia General Assembly for four years now to offer community solar pilot projects, but neither utility has made such a program option available to customers and no projects have been built. We are asking for two things:
- That the Virginia Legislature require that public utility companies offer the shared solar option to citizens in localities that desire access to solar, and thereby build solar projects in those communities; and,
- That the Commonwealth provide economic transition-to-solar support for our region, which would support one of the Virginia Department of Energy’s stated primary goals for addressing climate change and energy diversification.
We all know now that global warming is already causing disastrous weather patterns, glacial melting, and temperature extremes affecting agriculture, land and water use, and the rise of sea levels. We older adults will not live to see the most extreme results of these cataclysmic changes, but if we don’t act as citizens, communities, state legislators, and Congressional leaders, our children and grandchildren are looking towards life-threatened futures on planet Earth.
We make this appeal for action on all levels of citizenry, and hope to be able to play our part in transitioning to cleaner and safer energy with the help of legislated change in Virginia and our Nation.
Ellen and Don Elmes