Bryan Stephens: Offshore wind is good for the country and Hampton Roads

Op-Ed by Bryan Stephens
Inside Business

If the U.S. and the Hampton Roads region want to remain globally competitive, we must look at the benefits of generating emissions-free energy. Offshore wind technology allows our nation to become competitive in the energy sector and could be a boon to the Hampton Roads economy.

Generating our own power locally means the creation of good high-paying jobs locally. Investing in renewable energy is a responsible commitment to the current and future citizens of Hampton Roads.

The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind announcement last month paired Dominion Energy with Ørsted, the largest energy company in Denmark, a global leader in developing and building offshore wind farms, and a pioneer in wind energy. The Hampton Roads Chamber is in full support of this partnership.

Offshore wind technology is commonplace throughout Europe and as an industry employs nearly 60,000 workers. Though this endeavor would represent only the second such project in the United States, and the first utility-owned operation in federal waters, the benefits to Hampton Roads and to the commonwealth are abundant.

The construction of the two-turbine demonstration project is the beginning of full commercial-scale deployment that could generate more than 2,000 megawatts of energy. Dominion Energy and Ørsted are working with stakeholders in the Department of Defense and Coast Guard as well as with commercial and recreational fishers, shippers and others to ensure activities in the research area have minimal impacts during surveys and installations.

The significant economic development opportunities for Virginia cannot be overstated. Offshore wind provides a zero-carbon emission energy source in an area with a more consistent and predictable fuel source than other renewable energy, and could cut Virginia’s reliance on imports by 30 percent.

Offshore wind does not have many of the land-use and zoning issues that onshore renewable resources have, and has a streamlined permitting regime where one federal agency manages the permitting of the area, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Offshore wind is more predictable, consistent and higher efficiency renewable energy than solar and onshore wind and offshore wind generation peaks at a complimentary time to peak usage and generating carbon emissions reductions.

The two six-megawatt turbines installed 25 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach will provide valuable research and present the viability of offshore wind technology in federal waters, not only working in hurricane prone waters, but alongside the world’s largest naval facility.

Offshore wind is one of Gov. Northam’s top energy priorities and Virginia Beach City Council passed a resolution in support of offshore wind in August. Construction of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project means attracting jobs and diversifying the economy.

Virginia Beach is becoming a major hub for fiber cable and there will be increased activity by large-volume energy users that want renewable energy to power their operations. Having the project means close access to renewable energy.

Hampton Roads is blessed with a workforce whose skills are aligned with the needs of the offshore wind supply chain, such as welders, engineers and a strong veteran population. The Offshore Wind project is one way to diversify the Hampton Roads economy.

Attracting new industries and helping existing businesses grow are ancillary benefits to the offshore wind opportunity. Offshore wind also satisfies the desire to reduce Virginia’s dependence on imported energy. This allows Virginia to become cost-competitive, the costs will continue to decline as the supply chain matures and efficiencies are gained.

The chamber means business and as an impactful advocate, it supports the economic catalyst that wind energy brings to our region.

Hampton Roads businesses and our economy will benefit tremendously from offshore wind. Thousands of jobs will be created in industries like manufacturing, construction, maintenance and logistics.

Additionally, offshore wind will inject millions of dollars in local communities that will help create healthier, more prosperous communities. This can be a significant step forward for our region.

Bryan K. Stephens is President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber.