Solar Supporters Make Economic Case For Legalizing Third-Party Installation

Jan 9, 2020

Proponents of increasing renewable energy generation in the Mountain State are once again urging West Virginia lawmakers to legalize a common financing method — power purchase agreements, or PPAs. 

PPAs allow third-party developers to install solar panels on residential or business property at little cost to the property owner. The developer sells the power generated to the host — saving them money on their power bill — and the developer makes money by selling any excess power to the utility and through tax credits and incentives. 

This arrangement is one of the most popular ways to boost solar installation. It’s legal in 28 states, including many of West Virginia’s neighbors, but the practice remains illegal here. 

A report released this week by West Virginians For Energy Freedom, national solar advocacy group Solar United Neighbors and West Virginia-based consultancy firm Downstream Strategies estimates if legislation is enacted to allow third-party solar installation, at least 13 megawatts of solar power capacity could be installed across the state and create almost 400 jobs. 

The group based its estimates on results from Virginia’s ongoing PPA pilot program. 

West Virginia has about 8 MW of solar installed that supports about 340 jobs, according to data from the 2018 Solar Jobs Census. 

The report also argues PPAs would allow institutions, individuals and businesses to save money by allowing them to lock into long-term power contracts for the renewable energy generated on site at a time when, on average, nationwide electricity prices are trending upward. 

Bipartisan bills introduced last session to legalize the practice died in committee. Proponents said they intend to try again during the 2020 session. 

Democratic Dels. Barbara Evans Fleischauer and Rodney Pyles introduced House Bill 3072 on Wednesday. The bill would legalize solar PPAs. Both lawmakers represent the 51st district, in Monongalia County.