Researchers assessing the state’s potential for renewable energy say Virginia could realistically meet half of its nearly 20,000-megawatt power demand by the year 2035 with clean, sustainable sources like solar, onshore and offshore wind, and biomass.
The George Mason University study, prepared for the Virginia Conservation Network, a coalition of renewable energy advocates and environmental groups, compared a combination of coal-fired generation and natural gas usage with alternatives.
Adopting more renewables, which the study points out, can become cost-competitive with conventional energy, would create tens of thousands of jobs, contribute millions of dollars to the gross state product and provide a “safe, reliable electricity system,” they say. The study concedes that doing so would likely result in higher utility bills for Virginia residents because of capital costs associated with clean-energy projects.
Nuclear power was notably absent from the study due to lingering questions about the safety of the energy resource in the post-disaster political fallout after the deadly meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Last August, reactors were shut down at Dominion Virginia’s North Anna nuclear power station in Mineral, Va., following an earthquake with an epicenter only about 10 miles from the facility.
Governor Bob McDonnell, a republican, has made energy development a priority of his administration, advocating an “all-of-the-above” approach to satisfying the state’s needs with a combination of coal, nuclear, natural gas, wind and solar.
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