Dominion Energy, one of the nation’s largest utilities, in late June erected wind turbines off the Virginia coast — only the second such installation in the United States — as part of a big bet on renewable energy.
The company is also planning to build new power plants that burn natural gas.
Utilities around the country are promoting their growing use of renewable energy like hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and solar panels, which collectively provided more power than coal-fired power plants for the first time last year. But even as they add more green sources of power, the industry remains deeply dependent on natural gas, a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases and is likely to remain a cornerstone of the electric grid for years or even decades.
Utilities maintain that they need to keep using natural gas because the wind and the sun are too unreliable. They are also reluctant to invest in energy storage, arguing that it would cost too much to buy batteries that can power the grid when there isn’t enough sunlight or wind.
“We’ve got to have a resource that has an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch,” said Katharine Bond, vice president for public policy and state affairs at Dominion.