Dominion, Dulles solar project to power 37,000 Va. homes
Largest renewables project at a U.S. airport slated for 2026 delivery
A massive solar project that will soon begin to take shape at Washington Dulles International Airport will not only have the ability to power 37,000 Virginia homes, but will also send a message to travelers about the power of clean energy, officials said Tuesday during a ceremonial groundbreaking for the 835-acre Dulles Solar and Storage project.
A partnership between Richmond-based Fortune 500 utility Dominion Energy and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the project is expected to begin construction later this year, aiming for completion in late 2026.
“Millions of travelers flying in and out of Dulles every year will see this powerful symbol of the clean energy transition,” said Dominion Energy President, Chair and CEO Bob Blue, who gathered with state, federal and local officials Tuesday in a parking lot at the airport to throw a ceremonial shovel of dirt to mark the public groundbreaking.
Several years in the making, the Dulles Solar and Storage project is expected to generate 100 megawatts of solar energy and will store up to 50 megawatts of power. According to Dominion, it will be the largest renewable energy project developed at a U.S. airport. Instead of paying an annual lease, Dominion will develop two solar carports, one megawatt in capacity each, to help power airport facilities; it will also provide 18 electric transit buses, 50 electric fleet vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations for Dulles operations.
The project comes in addition to others that Dominion has in the pipeline, including a 2.6-gigawatt, $9.8 billion wind farm 27 miles off the Virginia Beach coast as well as supporting development of small nuclear reactors as the company reaches toward a state mandate to produce all of its power for Virginia customers from renewable sources by 2045. During the last decade, Dominion has built the second largest utility solar fleet in the country, with solar energy providing power for 400,000 of the company’s customers and businesses, Blue said, adding that “over the next decade, projects like this one will develop enough solar for 2 million more.”
MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter noted that the 200,000-panel solar farm that will cover the 835 acres southwest of the Dulles airport will be similar in size to Arlington County’s 875-acre Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Reagan, which officials have said is the busiest airport in the country, has been the source of legislative wrangling as some members of Congress sought to add more long-haul flights there. The move has been opposed by several Virginia and Maryland lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who took the opportunity Tuesday during remarks to also take a swipe at that idea. About 40% of flights at Reagan are delayed for about an average of 60 minutes, he said, adding “Congress shouldn’t be micromanaging the region’s airports” and noting the billions of dollars that have been invested in extending Metro’s Silver Line, including a stop at Dulles that opened in November, a move expected to drive billions of dollars in investment in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
“You think about adding more flights there for certain members of Congress’ individual convenience, you turn a challenge for the traveling public for the neighborhoods around National from a challenge to a disaster,” Warner said.
The Dulles project, which is expected to generate 300 construction jobs and $200 million in economic activity for the state, has also faced pushback from environmental groups, including the Piedmont Environmental Council, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. In a 2021 letter, the groups said they support solar at the Dulles site but argued for an alternative option that included placing solar panels on already developed environments, including above airport rooftops, parking garages and airport parking areas.
It also comes as some Virginia counties have faced resistance to solar development, including Fauquier County, which earlier this month denied a proposed the proposed Sowego Solar farm. In May, Energix Renewables withdrew plans to build a solar farm in Franklin County after residents complained a proposed 20 megawatt farm on 92 acres would impact property values, amid other concerns. In Halifax County, residents have asked elected officials to place limits on solar developments.
But Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall on Tuesday applauded Dominion’s project, citing climate change and devastating wildfires that ripped through Maui as well as Tropical Storm Hilary, the first storm to hit Southern California in 84 years.
“For Dominion Energy to step up and do solar, to do wind, to do small nuclear reactors, to partner with Dulles airport speaks to the fact that everybody now knows that we are not making land-use decisions for today,” Randall said. “We’re making these decisions for our children, for our children’s children and even for their children. We have no options, but to have sustainable energy in place right now.”