Key takeaways


irginia is taking big strides in renewable energy with fresh legislation that really amps up its solar power commitment. Governor Glenn Youngkin has signed into law a series of bills that lay the groundwork for a powerful community solar program, aiming high for the state’s energy goals. Let’s dissect what this means for the state and see how community solar is spreading across the U.S.

A Commitment to Renewable Energy

Virginia has ambitious plans for its energy sector. Under the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act, the state is set to turn its electric grid into a clean energy powerhouse by 2050. The plan lays out clear renewable energy targets for regulated utilities and requires a greater proportion of their energy to come from non-carbon sources. By 2045, Dominion Energy, Virginia's largest utility, is expected to run entirely on renewables, with interim targets of 26% by 2025 and 59% by 2035. Appalachian Power, which serves the state's far southwest, also needs to ditch carbon by 2050.

Additionally, under this new law, nearly all of Virginia's coal plants are scheduled to close by the end of 2024. This makes Old Dominion the first state in the Southeastern U.S. to adopt such forward-thinking clean-energy standards.

So far, big utility projects have led the charge toward clean energy. But now, things are shaking up. Thanks to new laws, there's a growing shift to more local, community-based solar efforts. This is excellent news for anyone who can't install solar panels at home—they now have the chance to share in the benefits of solar power too.

The Basics of Community Solar

What's community solar all about? It is a shared system where you and others can benefit from one solar power station packed with high efficiency PV panels. If putting solar modules on your own roof isn’t an option or just doesn’t appeal to you, this is your ticket to still get in on solar savings. You subscribe, the electricity gets generated, and you harness power from solar panels and see your utility bill decrease.

How Community Solar Works Infographic
Souce: Solstice

The New Legislation

Governor Youngkin's backing of the bills SB 253/HB 106 and SB 255/HB 108 is a big move forward. These bills, championed by Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell and Delegate Rip Sullivan, are designed to expand access to shared solar in Dominion Energy territories and establish a community solar program for Appalachian Power customers in southwest Virginia.

The legislation kicks off a significant green energy boost, splitting 200 megawatts (MW) of new solar projects between two major power providers. Specifically, Dominion Energy will expand by 150 MW through its community solar initiatives, while Appalachian Power Company will add a fresh 50 MW. These setups can be built on various sites like rooftops, brownfields, landfills, or dual-use agricultural facilities, all backed by incentives tailored by the Virginia Department of Energy.

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Community Solar Across the U.S.

As Virginia jumps on board, community solar is already spreading fast across the United States. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), currently, there are active community solar projects in 41 states and Washington D.C., with 19 of these states plus D.C. pushing the envelope with formal policies. The SEIA also reports a total of 6.5 gigawatts of community solar installed through the first quarter of 2024 —and that figure is expected to soar, potentially doubling within the next five years.

The rise of community solar is mainly thanks to its welcoming approach, which lets everyone join in, no matter their living situation or whether they own their home. This model makes it a perfect fit for urban and densely populated regions where installing even the cheapest solar system isn't really an option.

Benefits of Community Solar

Community solar is a great way for anyone looking to get into solar power without the trouble of putting panels on their own roof. Let's dive into the main advantages that community solar offers:

  1. Slash Your Energy Bills

One of the top reasons to go community solar is the chance to lower your electricity costs. The amount you save will vary based on several factors like the type of plan you choose, your current electricity rates, the cost to join a community solar program, and your energy usage. You might see savings of up to 20% on your usual electric bills, though it's good to keep in mind that some programs might not be cheaper than what you're currently paying. It's smart to look at both your monthly expenses and potential long-term savings to figure out if community solar makes sense for your wallet.

  1. Perfect for Renters and Condo Residents

For many, the hurdle of installing the most efficient home solar panels on a rooftop is too high, especially if you don’t own your home. Renters and condo owners typically can't install panels due to restrictions or the need for extensive installations on the property. Community solar offers a neat solution, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of clean energy without the upfront costs of solar panels or maintenance hassles associated with traditional setups.

Plus, for those who move around a lot, it’s crucial to check out how flexible your community solar contract is. Some providers make it super easy to pass your contract on to the next renter or owner, or someone else in your utility area, while others might charge you a cancellation fee.

  1. Flexible Contracts

In the past, long-term commitments and hefty cancellation fees made community solar less attractive. Today, many providers offer more manageable short-term contracts and have simplified the process for you to exit or transfer your plan, making it a more flexible and hassle-free option.

  1. Economic Growth Meets Environmental Care

The push for community solar in Virginia is a win-win for both the environment and the economy. This initiative is expected to create numerous high-quality jobs, as there's a need for skilled workers to design, build, and look after these solar farms. Environmentally, it’s a champion move, too. More renewable energy means less reliance on fossil fuels, fewer carbon emissions, and cleaner, healthier air and water for everyone.

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National and State Goals

Virginia's enthusiasm for community solar is in sync with broader national objectives. The National Community Solar Partnership led by the Department of Energy plans to set up 20 gigawatts of community solar by 2025, enough to supply power to 5 million homes and save consumers around $1 billion in energy costs. Virginia's role is vital in this mission as it stands 11th in the U.S. for solar capacity, producing more than 6.5% of its electricity from the sun, as per SEIA.

National and State Goals Infographic
Source: The U.S. Department of Energy

Challenges and Trade-offs

While the legislation is a major win for renewable energy advocates, it's a bit of a middle ground compared to what some advocates initially wanted. Originally, the Coalition for Community Solar Access was aiming for a massive 2 gigawatts (GW) of community solar across the utilities. The final number landed at 200 MW, yet this legislation is still a crucial first step on the road to much larger goals.

Looking Forward

Now that Virginia has set up the groundwork, the state is on track for a more sustainable and greener future. Key players like government officials, local environmental advocates, and utility companies are coming together to make sure these new programs work effectively. As community solar expands, it’s set to not only reshape Virginia’s energy landscape but also encourage other states to follow suit with their own sustainable energy initiatives.

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You can also watch this video about SREC in Virginia


Virginia's new community solar law is a game-changer in the state's solar market. It opens up clean energy to more homes and businesses, pushing forward Virginia's eco-friendly goals and showing other states how it's done. As these programs roll out, it will be crucial to monitor the effectiveness of these programs and their impact on Virginia's energy landscape and its residents' lives.

The launch of community solar in Virginia shows what can happen when different political sides come together, recognizing the perks of clean energy. It's all about stepping up to a sustainable and resilient way of making energy, which means a cleaner, fairer future for every Virginian.

In a nutshell, Virginia is making big moves with its community solar programs, hitting two birds with one stone: boosting renewable energy use and making renewable power available for more people. As these initiatives pick up steam, they could set a trend for other states to jump on the solar bandwagon, possibly reshaping energy use across the country.

Key takeaways

  • Renewable Energy Commitment: Virginia is advancing its clean energy goals with the introduction of community solar legislation, aiming to transition its electric grid to renewables by 2050.
  • Expansion of Community Solar: Governor Youngkin signed bills expanding access to shared solar in Dominion Energy territories and establishing a program for Appalachian Power customers, allocating 200 MW of new solar projects between the two providers.
  • National Trend: Community solar is rapidly spreading across the U.S., with active projects in 41 states and D.C. and 6.5 gigawatts installed by the first quarter of 2024, aligned with broader national goals for renewable energy.
  • Benefits of Community Solar: Community solar offers cost savings, especially for renters and condo residents, with flexible contracts and economic growth opportunities while contributing to environmental sustainability.
  • Challenges and Progress: While the legislation represents progress, it falls short of initial goals, highlighting the need for ongoing advocacy and monitoring of program effectiveness.
  • Virginia's Leadership: Virginia's commitment to community solar sets an example for other states, demonstrating the potential for bipartisan cooperation and the benefits of sustainable energy initiatives.
  • Game-Changer for Solar Market: Virginia's community solar law opens up clean energy access, advancing eco-friendly goals and potentially setting a trend for other states to follow suit, reshaping the national energy landscape.
Apr 18, 2024
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