Dominion Virginia Power, in continuing its exploration of alternative energy technologies, wants to lease rooftops and grounds of commercial businesses and public facilities for electricity-generating solar panels.

The panels would generate enough electricity to power about 6,000 homes during peak daylight hours. The initiative would be part of a multi-year program designed to help expand the company's understanding of community-based solar energy, study its impact and assess its benefits. The company made its request for approval Monday to the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

"To successfully implement solar energy projects, we have to understand how community-based solar energy will integrate in our existing distribution system," said Kenneth D. Barker, vice president-Customer Solutions and Energy Conservation. "In addition, the program would provide more renewable energy to our generation mix, support Virginia's renewable energy goals and further the goals of the commonwealth's energy policy."

While specific locations have not yet been identified, at least four of the solar sites would be located in community settings, such as local government buildings, schools, community associations, neighborhood associations or nonprofit organizations. In all, the company plans to install solar panels on 30 to 50 sites in its service area.

Participants would receive payment for leasing space for the solar panels. A Web-enabled monitor located at the facility would display information about the installation's output.

Throughout the program, the company would report the study results of each project to the commission annually. The company would continue to own and operate the solar panels as generation facilities after a site has been operating for five years.

The company's application also includes plans for a new rate under development in which the company would purchase solar energy from customers who have panels on their property.