Appalachian Power seeks to acquire or contract for 294 MW of solar and 204 MW of wind power over the next three years as part of its long-range plan to meet the renewable energy targets established by the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). Passed in 2020 by the General Assembly, the law requires the utility to file an annual plan with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) outlining how it will meet key mandates as it reaches 100% carbon-free status by 2050.
The plan filed last week with the SCC is the company’s second update since the VCEA became law. Appalachian Power intends to meet its VCEA targets primarily through investments in solar, wind, energy storage, and purchase of market renewable energy certificates (RECs). The company’s short-term plans are to add nearly 500 MW of solar and wind power to the company’s renewables portfolio over the next three years. By 2040, the company expects to add approximately 3300 MW of solar, 2600 MW of energy storage, and nearly 3000 MW of onshore wind to its current portfolio of wind and hydro resources.
The largest project in the short-term plan will add 204 MW of wind energy to the company’s renewables portfolio. Located in Illinois, the project is expected to be operational in December 2024, and represents Appalachian Power’s largest wind resource project to date. In the filing, the company seeks permission to recover the costs associated with the purchase of the facility. The company also seeks approval to recover the costs associated with purchase of two solar energy projects — a 50-MW solar facility in Berkeley County, West Virginia, and a 4.9-MW solar facility in Amherst County, Virginia.
The company’s short-term plans also include the purchase of a 150-MW solar facility in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The company is seeking permission from the SCC to move forward with its intention to acquire the project, as well as regulatory approval to enter into agreements to purchase the output of three Virginia solar facilities via power purchase agreements (PPAs). The three solar facilities will add approximately 89 MW of power to the company’s energy supply.
“This is our company’s most extensive filing yet,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “The update filed with state regulators reflects the in-depth analysis necessary to ensure sufficient resources are in place to provide affordable and reliable power for our customers while continuing to build our renewables portfolio and meet our VCEA requirements.”
In addition to the nearly 500 MW in solar and wind projects outlined by the company, the plan includes 55 MW of separate solar projects that are or will be in service in the coming months. In this filing, the company is seeking to include in rates the costs associated with these projects and the Amherst project, as well as market REC purchases necessary for annual compliance.
The company is considering adding energy storage to improve reliability for customers who receive power from the company’s Glade Station — White Top circuit in southwest Virginia. The energy storage project would improve reliability by providing a back-up source of power when an outage occurs. Although included in the filing, the project is still in the planning stages.
Customer bills are expected to increase as the company adds more renewables to comply with the VCEA’s requirements. Any increase related to this filing will depend on a variety of factors including customer class, usage, and regulatory outcomes. If approved as requested, residential customers using 1000 kilowatt hours (kWh) a month will see an approximate US$2.37 increase in their monthly bill.
Appalachian Power has 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power). It is part of American Electric Power, which is focused on building a smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions. AEP’s approximately 16,800 employees operate and maintain the nation’s largest electricity transmission system and more than 223,000 miles (358.9 km) of distribution lines to efficiently deliver safe, reliable power to nearly 5.5 million customers in 11 states. AEP is also one of the nation’s largest electricity producers with approximately 30,000 MW of diverse generating capacity, including 5500 MW of renewable energy.