Although wind energy is still a developing market in the U.S., America is rarely behind when it comes to energy production. That is all getting ready to change as wind power got an extra boost this week as Dominion Energy announced their endeavor to harness energy through the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project (CVOW), building wind mills off the coast of Virginia Beach to become one of the country’s leaders in emissions-free energy generation.
“Today’s announcement further affirms our commitment to a new era of clean, renewable energy for the Commonwealth,” said Dominion Energy Chairman, President, and CEO Tom Farrell, according to a company press release. “We are truly excited to bring offshore wind to Virginians for the first time.”
Farrell’s Friday announcement was staged in Norfolk alongside Governor Ralph Northam who remarked that the initiative “represents a significant step toward harnessing Virginia’s offshore wind energy resource and the many important economic benefits that this industry will bring to our Commonwealth.”
Also in attendance was Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, which has been hired to build two 6-megawatt wind turbines approximately 27 miles off the coast. The Copenhagen-based company is a premier offshore wind power developer with over 1,000 offshore wind turbines installed and operating around the world.
“We are excited to bring our expertise to Virginia,” said Brostrøm. “This project will provide us vital experience in constructing an offshore wind project in the United States and serve as a stepping stone to a larger commercial-scale partnership between our companies in the future. We see the tremendous potential in the Mid-Atlantic for emission-free, renewable wind generation and we are excited to help the Commonwealth in reaping the benefits of wind power.”
China and Europe still lead the world in wind energy production. China produced close to 188,000 megawatts of power in 2017, and Europe generated around 229,000 megawatts during the same time period, according to data from the Global Wind Energy Council. The U.S., however, produced just over 89,000 megawatts. Nevertheless, CVOW is set to increase the stance of the U.S. in the wind power community.
Before construction can begin, an ocean-mapping research vessel will create a diagram of the ocean floor of the 2,135 acres leased from the federal government by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The Hampton Roads area, with its port infrastructure and workforce, was a top choice among the other areas along the Virginia coast that were considered.
The tandem turbines will be anchored at a sea depth of 80 feet and rise over 550 feet above the ocean’s surface, but will not be visible from the Virginia Beach shoreline. Contingent on various regulatory approvals, onshore construction would start in 2019, followed by turbine installation in early the following year. If construction stays on schedule, the turbines will begin generating emissions-free energy for Dominion customers by December 2020.
Virginia’s first offshore wind turbines will be the first constructed in federally-held waters through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) approval process. Moreover, it will become America’s second commercial-scale offshore installation, following the construction of the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island by Deepwater Wind. The five-turbine, 30-megawatt power source has been operational since 2015.
The $300 million project is being funded through existing electrical base rates formed through the Grid Transformation and Security Act, which became law early last month and provides a path for a smarter, stronger, and greener energy grid throughout the Commonwealth.
Dominion Energy‘s solar fleet is currently the sixth largest in the nation, with more than 3,300 megawatts of renewable energy resources either operational or under development across 10 states. Following the enactment of the Grid Transformation Plan, the company said in July that they are dedicated to constructing the infrastructure necessary to produce 3,000 megawatts of new solar and wind energy – enough to power 750,000 homes – all to be under development or in operation in Virginia by the beginning of 2022.
Northam added, “The offshore wind demonstration project will provide critical information to stakeholders and will position Virginia as a leader as we work to attract job opportunities in the offshore wind supply chain and service industries.”
Not only will the project boost jobs in the Norfolk and Virginia Beach area, CVOW will provide the experience with permitting, construction and operational experience, that will inevitably lead to 2,000 more megawatts of carbon-free generation in the adjacent 112,000 acre wind energy lease area, enough energy to power about 500,000 homes.