Dominion, Dulles break ground on nation’s largest renewable energy project at an airport
- Written by Charlie Paullin | Virginia Mercury
- Category: Local News
- Published: 23 August 2023
LOUDOUN COUNTY — Virginia and Dominion Energy officials gathered at Dulles International Airport Tuesday to celebrate the groundbreaking of a solar, battery storage and electric vehicle initiative that they said would be the nation’s largest renewable energy project at an airport.
“We’re proud that Washington Dulles International will be the home of this project,” said Jack Potter, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles.
The project consists of 100 megawatts of solar power and 50 megawatts of battery storage. Dominion says it will have the ability to power 37,500 homes.
This story was reported and written by The Virginia Mercury
In exchange for the use of 835 acres of Dulles’ land, Dominion will also build two carports with solar panels on top that will generate 1 megawatt of electricity for the airport’s operations. The utility is also providing the airport 18 electric buses, 50 electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations.
Construction on the estimated $200 million project will begin later this year with an anticipated completion date of late 2026. The airport and the electric utility say it’s expected to create $200 million in economic activity and 300 construction jobs.
The project will join Dominion’s other renewable energy initiatives, which aim to meet a 2045 decarbonization deadline set by the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. Besides major investments in solar, battery storage and a 176-turbine offshore wind farm expected to be the largest on the East Coast, the company’s plans include the development of a small modular nuclear reactor.
“We’re doing all of this because our fundamental mission is to power our customers today and every day by providing reliable, affordable and increasingly clean energy,” said Dominion Chair, President and CEO Bob Blue Tuesday. “Executing that mission demands protecting the environment and doing our part in the fight against climate change.”
Energy storage is seen as critical to the renewable energy transition because of its ability to provide electricity to the grid when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. It also maintains a relatively small physical footprint, noted a task force convened by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates Dominion.
The VCEA requires Dominion to develop 2,700 megawatts of energy storage Dominion by 2035. However, most storage projects remain in what the SCC has called a “nascent” stage. In late 2020, after the VCEA passed, Dominion Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications Bill Murray called storage “the single most important technology and policy issue facing energy right now.”
When constructed, the battery storage facility at Dulles, which built off of a pilot Dominion launched in Scott County in 2019 to study how solar and battery storage can be combined, will be the largest in Dominion’s fleet. The company operates three other battery storage projects in Virginia, including 2 megawatt facilities in New Kent and Hanover counties, and is planning a 15.7 megawatt project in Sussex County.
The U.S. Department of Transportation gave final approval for the Dulles project in January. The Federal Aviation Administration, the SCC and other federal, state and local agencies also reviewed the proposal.
At the Tuesday groundbreaking, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, connected the Dulles project to the federal Inflation Reduction Act, which he said has already generated $1 trillion in clean energy investments.
“There’s no single silver bullet solution for the challenge around climate change,” Warner said, while advocating for the use of a range of different technologies, including battery storage and small modular nuclear reactors.
Local officials said the project offers a clear example of how to combat climate change.
“Anyone that doesn’t know that we have to do something today to leave an Earth for our children tomorrow is not paying attention,” said Phyllis Randall, chair of the Board of Supervisors for Loudoun County, where the project is located. “People will look and say, ‘If they can do it in Dominion, and MWAA and in Loudoun County, we can do it in Chicago. We can do it in L.A. We can do it in Miami.’”