Offshore Wind Energy Off Virginia’s Coast: Past, Present & Future
Virginia has significant potential for the development of offshore wind resources off its coast. The Commonwealth has the only research lease for offshore renewable energy awarded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). A two-turbine, 12 megawatt (MW) demonstration project is slated for development in this 2,135-acre research lease, and the project is currently in the final stages of BOEM approval with a 2020 target completion date. This demonstration project is the precursor to the full-scale build out of the 112,800-acre Wind Energy Area (WEA) located approximately 23.5 nautical miles offshore from the Virginia Beach coastline. The federal lease for this WEA was executed in November 2013 with Dominion Virginia Power, which is an investor-owned utility. The full build-out of this WEA has the potential to produce up to 2,000 MW of wind generation.
The Commonwealth’s rich history of support for the development of offshore wind energy resources began with the 2007 founding of the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC). VCERC was created to serve as an interdisciplinary study, research, and information resource for the Commonwealth on coastal energy issues. It provides the research and development required for the commercialization and implementation of renewable energy, specifically offshore wind and wave resources in Virginia.
In 2010, the Commonwealth’s commitment to offshore wind grew with the creation of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority (VOWDA). VOWDA is vested with the powers set forth in § 67‐1201 of the Code of Virginia for the purposes of facilitating, coordinating, and supporting the development of the offshore wind energy industry, offshore wind energy projects and associated supply chain businesses.
More recently, Virginia’s General Assembly passed legislation during the 2018 session that has the potential to further expand the offshore wind industry in Virginia. The legislation deems 5,000 MW of utility-scale solar and wind resources to be in the public interest, including the 12 MW demonstration project discussed above. Governor Ralph Northam signed the legislation which became law on July 1, 2018.
Virginia's Offshore Wind Timeline
Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium
The Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC) in 2007 to serve as an interdisciplinary study, research and information resource for the Commonwealth on coastal energy issues. VCERC provides the research and development required for the commercialization and implementation of renewable energy, specifically algal biomass, wave and offshore wind resources in Virginia.
Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Infrastructure Development Compact
The Virginia General Assembly established the Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Infrastructure Development Compact in 2009 with member states including: Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. The compact was designed to: (1) study, develop and promote coordinated research and planning of the design, construction, utility interconnection, financing and operation of offshore wind energy infrastructure and operations directly adjacent to the shores of the party states; (2) coordinate federal, state and local government efforts; and (3) seek funding opportunities. The law enabling the Compact was repealed in 2011.
Virginia Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) formed the Virginia Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force in 2009 to determine an acceptable location on the outer continental shelf for leasing and development of offshore wind energy. This 134-member group includes, among others, representatives from federal and state agencies, Hampton Roads local governments, Virginia Port Authority, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Department of Defense and branches of the U.S. military. The Task Force advised BOEM on what is now Virginia’s Wind Energy Area (WEA) that protects ecologically sensitive areas, minimizes space use conflicts and maximizes the area available for development.
Virginia Offshore Wind Energy Development Authority
The Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Offshore Wind Energy Development Authority (VOWDA) in 2010 to facilitate and support the development of the offshore wind industry and wind-powered electric energy facilities located off Virginia’s coast beyond the Commonwealth's three-mile jurisdictional limit. The Authority is charged with, among other tasks, identifying existing state and regulatory or administrative barriers to the development of the offshore wind industry, collecting metocean and environmental data, upgrading port facilities to accommodate the manufacturing and assembly of project components and vessels that will support such projects and applying to the U.S. Department of Energy for loan guarantees for such projects.
Regional Geophysical Survey and Interpretive Report
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) and BOEM contracted with Fugro in 2013 to conduct a regional geophysical survey across Virginia’s Wind Energy Area (WEA). The survey and resulting geologic evaluation provided key, fundamental seafloor and subsurface data and geological interpretation that will help promote, plan and further the goals of a safe, economic and responsible future commercial development in Virginia’s waters.
Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project
DMME signed an agreement with BOEM in 2015 for the first offshore research lease in the country. DMME named Dominion (now Dominion Energy) to be the Designated Operator for the lease to enable the construction of the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP). The VOWTAP consisted of two 6 MW wind turbines on the 2,135-acre research lease site. The project stalled following schedule delays, resulting in the loss of $40 million in U.S. Department of Energy funds.
Virginia Offshore Wind Port Readiness Study
The McAuliffe Administration released a comprehensive analysis of Virginia’s capabilities to attract supply chain companies that support the installation of offshore wind energy in 2015. The Virginia Offshore Wind Port Readiness Study, developed as three separate reports, analyzed the readiness of Virginia’s ports and commercial shipyards to accommodate nearly a dozen manufacturing and construction activities necessary in the development of offshore wind generation facilities. The study concluded that five of Virginia’s ports offer a high level of potential, and with strategic investments are well placed to handle large-scale activities to support an east coast offshore wind industry. The study also included an analysis of the direct jobs potential of six main wind-manufacturing processes.
Collaborative Fisheries Planning for Virginia’s Offshore Wind Energy Area
DMME, BOEM and the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program initiated a process in 2015 to collaborate with the recreational and commercial fishing sectors on (1) identifying fishing communities potentially affected by the Virginia WEA; (2) developing accurate, fine-scale maps of key fishing areas in and around the Virginia WEA; and (3) creating best management practices regarding communication, design, operation and environmental monitoring of a commercial wind facility.
Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Research Project
Dominion, now Dominion Energy, partnered with Danish offshore wind developer, Ørsted, in 2017 to refine the original plans for what is now called the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project (CVOW). Ørsted has developed 24 offshore wind projects around the world generating 5.1 GW of electricity, enough to serve more than 2 million homes in the United States. Dominion Energy remains committed to the CVOW project, which should be in operation by late 2020. Of all the commercial offshore wind power leases issued to date along the East Coast, Virginia’s lease area is the only one controlled by an investor-owned utility. The CVOW research project will lay the groundwork for potential large-scale commercial development (up to 2,000 MW) in an 112,800-acre commercial wind site beginning approximately 27 miles east of Virginia Beach in which Dominion Energy has leased from BOEM. All other lease areas are controlled by private development companies, which must enter into power purchase agreements with utilities in other states.
Grid Transformation and Security Act
In a bipartisan fashion, Virginia’s legislature passed the Grid Transformation and Security Act in 2018, which deems 5,000 MW of utility-scale solar and wind energy generation to be in the public interest. Governor Ralph Northam signed the legislation, which became law on July 1, 2018. The comprehensive energy reform legislation has helped pave the way for a smarter, stronger and greener energy grid.
Virginia Offshore Wind Supply Chain and Service Industry Analysis
The Northam Administration issued a Request for Proposals in May 2018 seeking offshore wind industry expertise to help deploy strategies that will strengthen Virginia’s position in attracting the offshore wind supply chain and service industry to the Commonwealth. DMME awarded the contract to BVG Associates (BVGA) in July 2018. BVGA and its partners joined the DMME-led Virginia Offshore Wind Team that includes representatives from the Governor’s Office, Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), Virginia Port Authority (VPA) and the Virginia maritime industry. BVGA leveraged the expertise of its North American and global partners — Ramboll, Timmons Group, Greentree Consulting, LLC and the Business Network for Offshore Wind — to provide a report in October 2018 on how best to leverage Virginia’s potential offshore wind advantages and to provide recommendations on removing barriers and closing gaps, including executive actions as well as regulatory and statutory changes.
"Build Virginia" Workforce Development Initiative
The Northam Administration announced the launch of Build Virginia in June 2018, an initiative that connects workers throughout the Commonwealth with training and employment opportunities in the skilled trades. This effort was designed to initially focus on helping jobseekers and employers in Virginia’s shipbuilding industry but will ultimately include resources relating to other growing industries including construction and advanced manufacturing.
Port of Virginia Readies to be Deepest on East Coast
The Port of Virginia’s “The Wider, Deeper, Safer” project gained U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval in July 2018 to take the channels to 55 feet deep and widen them in select areas to allow for two-way traffic of ultra-large containerships. The Port currently has 50-foot channels and berths and is the only U.S. East Coast port with congressional authorization for 55-foot depth channels.
Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Research Project Progress
Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell joined Governor Ralph Northam and Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, in August 2018 to announce progress with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind research project. The utility indicated it had filed with Virginia's State Corporation Commission (SCC) for approval to build the two 6 MW turbines and grid infrastructure needed to connect the facility to the coast. It also initiated work to conduct the final ocean floor mapping needed before construction could begin.
"FastForward" Training Programs at Virginia's Community Colleges
The Northam Administration announced the launch of a $2 million initiative in August 2018 to attract young adults in Virginia to high-demand jobs through FastForward training programs at Virginia’s Community Colleges. The first-in-the-nation, pay-for-performance workforce training program has delivered more than 11,000 credentials in high demand industries over the past two years. The effort links together proven and highly successful training, career coaching and job placement services to address the historically challenging issue of youth employment.
2018 Virginia Energy Plan Sets Offshore Wind Goals
Governor Ralph Northam released the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan, which provides a strategic vision for the Commonwealth’s energy policy over the next 10 years. Offshore wind recommendations include committing to a goal that the full 2,000 MW of offshore wind potential in Virginia’s wind energy area be developed by 2028. The plan calls for including the offshore wind industry as a priority in future workforce development and economic development strategic plans. It also encourages initiating regional collaboration with neighboring states to help provide greater certainty for the industry as it looks to establish a long-term project pipeline.
State Corporation Commission approves Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind research project
The State Corporation Commission approved a prudency petition from Dominion Energy Virginia relating to Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind, a 12 MW offshore wind construction project to be located nearly 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.
Virginia Offshore Wind Supply Chain and Service Industry Roadmap
Governor Ralph Northam released the BVG Associates LLC-led analysis, “The Virginia Advantage: The Roadmap for the Offshore Wind Supply Chain in Virginia,” providing a roadmap for Virginia to develop an offshore wind supply chain to serve emerging offshore wind projects along the East Coast. The report analyzed Virginia’s potential strategic role in the rapidly emerging US offshore wind industry. The recommendations include establishing a regional supply chain collaborative with neighboring states, creating a Virginia Office for Offshore Wind, soliciting anchor tenant suppliers and expanding workforce development opportunities.