Virginia seeks proposals for offshore wind development plans

By Trevor Metcalfe
May 30, 2018
Inside Business

Virginia is looking for plans to create an infrastructure blueprint for offshore wind energy – a move local advocates and experts say could lead to more development and larger projects.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced May 22 the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy was looking for proposals. Hampton Roads – with its port infrastructure and workforce – was touted by Northam as an ideal location for wind energy.

“Virginia should be the prime location for the offshore wind industry, from the supply chain to the full build-out of our offshore wind assets off the coast,” Northam said in the release.

In other words, the state wants a plan on how to lay the groundwork to attract wind energy to the region, former chair of the Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition Jeff Keever said.

Hampton Roads already has several elements needed for the industry to thrive, he said. A strong workforce, significant waterfront facilities and a potential for development “are all tremendous assets for offshore wind to add to the economy,” Keever said.

Wind energy is still a developing market in this country, said Charles Decuir, executive director of the NovaVis database and social media platform for wind energy experts. It’s a rare exception for the United States to be behind in terms of energy industries, he added.

Decuir described NovaVis as a networking tool and database for wind industry experts around the world, where they can share knowledge and connect with others on projects.

Several other states on the East Coast – and particularly New England – made investments in wind energy in May. Massachusetts selected a contractor to build an 800-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Rhode Island then followed suit, awarding a 400-megawatt project to Deepwater Wind. Finally, New Jersey signed a law committing to 3,500-megawatts in wind power by 2030.

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.

However, that doesn’t mean the U.S. and Virginia can’t make up the gap, Decuir said. He toured European wind facilities last year, and many wind energy professionals in Europe helped out with NovaVis.

“We were met with open arms,” Decuir said.

The RFP in particular was a positive step forward for Virginia after a few years of stagnation from the state, he said.

“I think we can look forward to it,” Decuir said.

Virginia officials also acknowledged the wide appeal of wind energy.

“This is the start of a 50-year industry that will stretch up and down the East Coast,” Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball said in the news release. “From a logistics standpoint, locating the offshore wind supply chain in Virginia just makes sense.”

Last year, Dominion Energy agreed to build two 6-megawatt test turbines by 2020. According to a July 10 article in The Virginian-Pilot, executives hoped the project would lead to a larger-scale wind farm 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.