Dominion Energy Power Delivery Group Vice-President of Technical Solutions Kevin Curtis shares an inside look into the efforts underway to modernize the smart energy grid in Virginia.
To find one of the fastest-growing economic engines for the Commonwealth, one needs simply look to the heavens. The ability to unlock the potential of the sun’s energy is powering a boom in clean energy jobs in Virginia and supporting our high-tech economy. Along with this solar expansion comes new challenges for the power grid and new opportunities for power companies to meet 21st century consumer expectations.
In just the past month, Facebook and Microsoft provided examples of how solar power is soaring to new heights in Virginia and powering critical business resources. Facebook announced a $1 billion investment in a data center outside of Richmond, which will include a $250 million future investment by Dominion Energy in renewables in the state. Soon after, Microsoft helped commission the 20-megawatt Remington Solar Facility in Fauquier County with Dominion Energy as part of its own commitment to renewable energy.
“The criticality of energy to all of this is a phenomenal concept that we all have to get our heads around,” said Secretary of Technology Karen R. Jackson during a recent webinar hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. “The more we push onto the grid, the more demand there is for quality, reliable power.”
That demand is being felt by us at Dominion Energy. I explained on the webinar that solar expansion has occurred faster than we anticipated. The current power grid wasn’t designed for the variability of solar generation and is being stretched by the proliferation of renewables. Power companies are expected to integrate them seamlessly and to do so while maintaining reliability and keeping costs competitive.
Infrastructure improvements are also needed to help harden critical facilities and protect the grid from escalating cyber and physical threats. Secretary Jackson points to several critical government and private sector customers served by Dominion Energy as an example of the role energy company’s play in ensuring public safety.
The key to addressing these evolving challenges is a modern energy grid, which Dominion Energy sees as essential to a stronger, smarter and cleaner energy future. The company is engaged right now in planning a Grid Modernization initiative to adapt to the solar and security challenges, as well as to be better positioned to meet customers’ rising expectations. Residents and businesses expect power that is always on, helpful information on their energy usage and more control over their power bill. Deploying new technology and hardening our system against power outages can satisfy all these needs, if properly executed.
We value all our customers at Dominion Energy and the Grid Modernization initiative is intended to benefit customers of all types. It is a shining opportunity on our horizon to transform our Commonwealth, our energy future and our economy. It provides Dominion Energy a way to improve on its record of safe, reliable, cost-effective power service. It enables the company to meet the demands for more renewable energy and a reduced carbon footprint. And it can continue to fuel clean energy jobs to provide continued growth to Virginia’s high-tech economy.