As part of our commitment to provide safe, clean and reliable energy to our customers, we drive innovation by researching and evaluating new and emerging energy technologies to assess their commercial viability and potential for building a more sustainable economy.
Alternative Energy Solutions
Dominion’s Alternative Energy Solutions (AES) group serves as the hub for all things related to green and emerging energy technology research and development.
AES consists of three departments:
- Research & Program Development
- Policy & Business Evaluation
- Financial Analysis
In 2011, AES was actively involved in evaluating and developing a variety of emerging technologies, including solar power, electric vehicles, offshore wind generation and energy conservation through voltage reduction. AES also supported the development of Dominion’s Green Tech Incubator, which provides office space and business support to start-up companies in the clean energy industry.
Under a proposed Community Solar Power Program (CSP), Dominion would own and install up to 30 megawatts of solar generation located on public and private property at strategic sites around the company’s Virginia service area. This will enable us to study the impact and benefits of solar power on our electric distribution system. We anticipate regulatory action on our proposal by the end of 2012.
As a companion to this initiative, we are asking state regulators to authorize a special tariff allowing residential and commercial owners of solar installations to sell their energy output and renewable energy credits to Dominion.
Offshore wind energy has great potential, and the AES group is leading Dominion’s efforts to evaluate this green resource.
We have completed two studies on the feasibility of connecting offshore wind generation to Dominion’s onshore transmission grid at Virginia Beach, Va.
In 2011, we received a two-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to speed technical innovations, lower costs and shorten the timeline for deploying offshore wind energy systems. Our partners in this effort include ALSTOM, a wind turbine manufacturer; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center; Moffatt & Nichol, a maritime engineering firm, and Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute.
Dominion plans to participate in the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s auction of commercial lease blocks off the Virginia coast for potential development of up to 1,800 megawatts of wind generation. (See Public Policy).
We are also actively participating in discussions about the development of public policies regarding offshore wind energy in Virginia.
Dominion has pioneered in using advanced smart metering technology to adjust voltage delivery over distribution lines during off-peak hours, resulting in sustainable energy savings. In November 2011, AES launched a stand-alone conservation voltage reduction and grid-side efficiency product suite called EDGE℠. We expect EDGE℠ to benefit utilities and other companies working to deploy new smart grid applications.
Smart Meter Technology
We have been demonstrating the benefits of smart meter technology since 2009. To date, we have surpassed 100,000 installations at customer residences in Virginia.
This digital technology allows us to collect additional data which helps optimize voltage levels for more consistent electricity delivery and sustained reliability for customers. It also means more efficient use of the fuels we use to generate power, which reduces our operating costs and benefits the environment as well.
In addition to voltage conservation, smart meters enable us to remotely turn on and turn off electric service for our residential customers – often within minutes of receiving the customer’s request. In the past, such requests had to be scheduled at least 24-hours in advance and required a technician to drive to the customer’s home to complete the request. Smart meters allow us to do the job remotely and quickly – and reduce our environmental footprint at the same time. More than 9,000 remote turn on/turn offs were completed in 2011.
Other 2011 smart meter program enhancements included:
- The launch of a “Smart Pricing Plan” offering variable electricity prices based on the time of day. Smart meters can measure energy usage in 30-minute intervals, which enables us to offer eligible customers different time-of-use pricing plans.
- A “Preferred Payment Date” pilot program allowing customers to choose their own bill date.
Dominion’s GreenTech Incubator near Richmond, Va., provides office space and business support services to start-up firms pursuing alternative energy solutions. These include wind and solar generation; carbon capture and storage; smart grid technology; electric vehicles; fuel cells, batteries and other storage technologies; and software development, among others.
In 2011, the GreenTech Incubator graduated its first start-up, Eastlight Renewable Ventures, which develops and operates commercial-scale solar energy projects. As the incubator tenants grow, they are expected to move to nearby locations, boosting the local economy. The GreenTech Incubator currently provides services to six clean energy companies.