Monday, November 8, 2010

Photovoltaic Power Plant to be Built in Virginia

Dominion Virginia Power will use a $5 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to help build a pilot photovoltaic power plant in Halifax County.

The Richmond-based utility will soon put out a request for proposals to design and build the 4-megawatt solar-power facility, said Mary C. Doswell, senior vice president for alternative energy solutions for Dominion Resources Services Inc., a sister company to Dominion Virginia Power.

"It's photovoltaic," she said of the test project, and the power produced "will go straight into the [electrical] grid."

Photovoltaic systems produce electric current directly from sunlight.

"It probably will generate a good deal of interest," Doswell said, noting that the plant's panels will be built on 40 to 50 acres and be readily visible.

Dominion Virginia Power's preliminary designs have the small test plant using solar panels that would tilt to receive the most sunlight, Doswell said, though, "people may give us different designs and different solar technologies, and we'll have to trade that off with costs as well."

Because sunshine peaks about an hour and a half before Dominion Virginia Power's customer demand does, Doswell said, the company wants to store 12.5 megawatt-hours of the solar plant's electric production using long-lived nickel-iron batteries.

"This grant is the kick-start to what would be the largest solar project in Virginia," Doswell said. "We know that it will take all forms of energy, including renewable forms such as this facility, to meet the growing demand for electricity from our customers."

The company expects the $35-million integrated solar and advanced energy storage facility to begin operating in 2012. Dominion Virginia Power plans to seek State Corporation Commission approval next year.

"There's been a trend toward increasing scale in solar technology," said Cara Libby, an engineer and project manager with the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif. "We're seeing utility-scale systems from a few megawatts up to several hundred of megawatts."

Thus far, the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Florida is the country's largest solar photovoltaic facility. Built by Florida Power & Light Co., that state's largest electric utility, the solar plant provides 25 megawatts of capacity.

Consisting of more than 90,500 solar panels, the facility on 180 acres in central Florida's DeSoto County began producing electricity in October 2009.

Dominion Virginia Power and the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority applied for the solar power grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission in June. The commission approved the grant last week.

The other project participants are the University of Virginia's Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering and an advanced energy-storage manufacturer, but "they're not ready to identify themselves yet," a Dominion Virginia Power spokesman said.

Dominion Virginia Power estimates that the solar plant's construction will employ about 100 workers.

The power company has 16,464 megawatts of installed generating capacity and 2.3 million Virginia customers. One megawatt can power 250 homes in Virginia.


1 comment:

clay said...

Is the request for bid on a manufacture plant fabricating panels, or a generational plant to produce KWH's (solar farm)?