RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a new contract Friday to power state government buildings using solar and wind farms, making it the largest renewable energy agreement in the nation.
Northam, a Democrat who is pushing for the state to run on 100% renewable energy by 2050, said in a statement that the deal with Dominion Energy “will help us achieve our clean energy targets and secure a healthier environment for future generations.”
“With this landmark contract, Virginia is leading by example and demonstrating how states can step up to combat climate change and advance a clean energy economy,” the governor said.
Under the agreement, Dominion, the state’s largest energy producer, will provide 420 megawatts of power from wind and solar sources – enough to power about 100,000 homes – to state government buildings.
The renewable energy will come in part from an expanded solar farm in one of Virginia’s cash-strapped rural regions, as well as a new onshore wind farm built by another company, Charlottesville-based Apex Clean Energy.
Last month, Northam signed an executive order calling for the state’s power to be totally carbon-free by 2050, with 30% coming from renewable sources by 2030. He said the contract announced Friday will put Virginia on track to meet the 2030 goal.
The governor’s efforts come on the heels of Dominion pushing for more renewable options in the state. In plans released last month, the company announced a new effort to create 220 offshore wind turbines, which would produce 2,600 megawatts at an estimated cost of almost $8 billion.
Virginia gets most of its power from carbon-fueled plants, but about 7% of the state’s energy already comes from renewable sources including biomass burners. It is also home to a nuclear power plant that makes up the largest portion of its current carbon-free production.
Thomas Farrell, president and CEO of Dominion Energy, said his company shares Northam’s goal for a “cleaner energy future” in Virginia and hailed the partnership as “vital to reducing carbon emissions.”
Furthering its commitment to renewable power, Dominion has also agreed to work with state school districts to replace aging diesel school buses. It plans to donate over 1,000 electric buses over the next five years.
While many applaud the effort, the power company has long been the target of environmental groups for its ties to a controversial pipeline that would bring natural gas through Virginia’s Appalachian Trail. So far the Fourth Circuit has been sympathetic to environmentalists and found permits granted for the project failed to meet required standards.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide the fate of the pipeline project.
Among those challenging the project on behalf of Appalachian residents is the Southern Environmental Law Center. The group, which is heading to the Fourth Circuit again later this month to fight the permit for another section of the pipeline, applauded Northam’s announcement.
“Governor Northam’s announcement today shows he’s keeping to his commitment to move Virginia to a carbon free 2050,” said senior attorney Will Cleveland. “This is the kind of leadership we need from all states in the face of climate inaction at the federal level.”