LEXINGTON – Governor Terry McAuliffe today commissioned Virginia’s first community solar project at the BARC Electric facility in Rockbridge, Virginia. BARC Electric has developed the first community solar project for the benefit of the member-owners who reside in Rockbridge, Bath, Highland, Augusta and Alleghany counties.
“Virginia’s short- and long-term energy security depends on the investments we make today in energy technology and infrastructure,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at today’s announcement. “BARC’s community solar project is an excellent model for stabilizing and reducing energy costs, while delivering clean solar power to large segments of households on the grid. We will continue to invest in energy infrastructure and support innovative approaches to bring low-cost, renewable energy to all corners of the Commonwealth.”
Community solar allows customers in different locations to join together to get electricity from solar power generated at a single facility, rather than each customer having to install solar on their rooftops. BARC builds and maintains the system, allowing customers to avoid the upfront cost of installations and continued maintenance. Renters, low-income customers, and those with physical barriers, such as inadequate roof space or shading, all can enjoy the benefits of solar through this project. In addition, BARC constructed an educational center at the facility to teach students and visitors about solar energy production, as well as provide a guided tour through the solar facility. The classroom features a touch-screen display of the real-time and historical production data of the solar array. The project was funded with a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant through the state, and additional funding was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development.
“We are very proud to be the first power company in the commonwealth to offer community solar to our members, as well as the first to offer a hands-on learning experience to area schoolchildren at our solar learning center,” said BARC Electric CEO Mike Keyser. “We have seen tremendously high customer demand to subscribe to the project, and I am excited to grow the project over time to serve more of our members. The success of our project proves that the demand exists for utility-owned community solar, and I hope that others follow our lead.”
The project will provide 25 percent of the energy needs for 212 homes and businesses across BARC’s entire electric system. More than 25 interested customers are currently on a waiting list for future expansion of the project. Subscribers to the project enjoy a fixed solar energy rate for 20 years, providing a hedge for a portion of their bill against rising energy prices. Additionally, 38 percent of all subscriber revenues will be set aside in a specially-earmarked fund for project expansion.
“We live in an exciting time for solar in Virginia” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “BARC is taking a leadership role not only in diversifying their customer’s energy portfolio, but also in educating Virginians on the value and benefit solar energy provides to our community and our economy. This is a smart investment for the region and for Virginia and we look forward to celebrating the expansion of this project in the future.”
BARC is a customer-owned electric cooperative serving a population of approximately 30,000 across five Virginia counties (Rockbridge, Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, and Highland). BARC was formed in 1938 and organized under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(12) as a nonprofit corporation. BARC exists to serve the needs of its customer-owners. With more than 2,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution line, and a service territory of 1,500 square miles, BARC serves a vast and mountainous region from the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the West Virginia border.