April 30, 2024

‘Environmental’ Groups recently have stated Virginia needs to rapidly expand and accelerate solar deployment to meet the ever-increasing demand of electricity from data centers.

Dominion Energy stated they will need to build more natural gas fired units to fulfill the needs of the state, and can do this under the ‘Reliability’ section of the VCEA. Whether we like it or not, Dominion is accurate with this statement and plan.

Senator Dave Marsden (D Fairfax) held a ‘closed’ meeting recently on ways to ‘reform’ the VCEA. It was unfortunate to be closed, especially since we don’t know who was invited, with particular focus on ‘Industry’ and ‘Environmental Groups’. Did he vet who is funding the Environmental Groups that were invited? Are they truly ‘environmentally focused’, or beholden to money they don’t know the source of, and with interests that are not genuine? We don’t know. We do know that some of the funding is coming from offshore entities that are not friendly to the US.

I agree with many who consider the secrecy of this meeting as giving significant ‘queasiness’.

What we are quickly learning though is that non carbon options are not the solution to the dramatic increase in electricity demand in Virginia that the data centers will require. One large data center can use as much or more electricity as a mid size County in the state. Projections by Dominion state we will need another 140 million megawatt hours additional electricity to power the some 30 odd data centers that are planned by 2036. The whole state of Va in 2022 used 128 million megawatt hours for all purposes.

Solar is not the answer for so many reasons. The environmental impact of solar fields are now being learned, and it is extensive and devastating. The impacts include land contamination, water contamination and flooding, erosion, wildlife decimation and extinctions, adjacent property damages and value loss, significant fire hazards, and all while not delivering the county revenue expectations. The ‘environmental’ groups know this, but have yet to push back and litigate. Why?

We need to establish solar field construction and development standards, as the County Site Agreements and Conditional Use Permits are woefully inadequate. The Counties have been too enamored with the income potential and ignoring the risks for landowners, citizens, and the environment.

The VECT has proposed language to state legislators to do just that.

To fulfill solar proponents’ visions, based on current technology, we will need two to three million acres of solar panels in the state. 10 years from now with innovation, maybe it would be half that amount of land, but do we want to use our valuable farmland and forests, as we are now, for this? This does not mean to not pursue solar or wind, but two to three million acres of solar has a massive environmental and conservation impact (on a par with coal in severity, with different inputs). Unfortunately, offshore

wind is double to cost per megawatt hour as nuclear, unreliable, and with huge operation and maintenance costs, and negative impacts on national security. CVOW is a costly experiment and likely only Phase I will be implemented, and even that may get trimmed back after the full costs are revealed by Dominion.

The reality, whether we agree or not, is that natural gas ‘is the transitional’ solution of the next 15 to 20 years. Dominion knows it, so does Duke, TVA, Southern, and every other utility in the US.

Now is the time for Dominion and APS to get serious working on SMR’s to be in place starting eight to ten years from now to move methodically away from carbon based electricity without risking the future of Virginia to a law that is woefully short sighted, ambiguous, unachievable, and creates new environmental devastation.

The Virginia Energy Consumer Trust is a 501c 4 organization. We are advocates for Virginia’s environmental and conservation preservation and improvement, and policies to stay on this roadmap while fulfilling Energy Justice, energy affordability, a sound state economy, high quality job growth, an improved standard of living, and national security. All energy sources have their benefits and drawbacks, and we seek to have the optimum mix that supports our vision for our state. Our goal is to be a voice for Virginia residents and businesses with data and facts that are in all our interests

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