Once all three solar farms are up and running, possibly by the end of the year, solar will represent about 4.5% of the energy generated by Appalachian to serve its Virginia customers.
About 11% of that electricity comes from hydroelectric facilities — dams and pump-storage operations such as the one at Smith Mountain Lake — and another 7% from wind turbines in West Virginia, Illinois and Indiana.
The company’s first power-purchase agreement for solar became effective in August, when it connected with Leatherwood Solar, a project in Henry County developed by Energix Renewables.
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Next will likely be the Depot Solar Center in Campbell County, a 100-some acre tract of solar panels that was first announced by Appalachian in 2017 but is only now nearing completion.
A third solar farm, in Wythe County, will generate 20 megawatts. It is also being developed by Energix, the company that more recently proposed a project at Smith Mountain Lake that was later withdrawn.
Appalachian has about 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee, and draws its power from sources in five states that are within the territory of its parent company, American Electric Power.
In the coming years, the utility will have to dramatically increase its reliance on solar, wind and hydroelectric sources.