By Tamara Dietrich
Offshore wind power has blown hot and cold in Virginia, but could get a boost Wednesday when the governor’s office expects to introduce the global consultant it’s chosen to help position the state as a major contender.
The announcement is planned as part of a public presentation and listening session for Gov. Ralph Northam’s Virginia Energy Plan, which each governor must devise to offer a strategic vision for energy policy.
The session is set to start at noon in the Gaines Theatre at Christopher Newport University in Newport News.
“Our [consultant] selection will assist Virginia in its aggressive pursuit of offshore wind supply chain and service industry business interests,” said John Warren, director of Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, in a statement Monday. “We are excited to work with a team of experts with global experience on this long-term economic development opportunity.”
DMME is tasked with devising the energy plan and must submit it by Oct. 1 to the governor, the State Corporation Commission and the General Assembly.
The plan must include projections of energy consumption; an analysis of energy efficiency, conservation and fuel diversity; a look at the impact of energy generation and consumption on disadvantaged or minority populations; a study of the adequacy of electricity generation, transmission and distribution; and the costs and benefits of federal regulations.
As it crafts the plan, DMME is holding six public listening sessions throughout the state. Most sessions tackle general energy issues, but two focus on a particular theme: Wednesday’s is the only one focusing on offshore wind.
According to DMME, the session will include the announcement of the consultant, a presentation on business opportunities regarding the offshore wind supply chain and services and the launch of a new offshore wind website, www.vaoffshorewind.org.
The public will have a chance to comment on offshore wind power or any aspect of the plan.
Five years ago, Dominion Energy won the exclusive right to develop a 112,800-acre site about 25 miles off Virginia’s coast for commercial wind energy. That area is believed capable of supporting up to 300 wind turbines producing up to 2,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power half a million homes.
But that project faltered in part because it was deemed too expensive.
Then last summer Dominion partnered with Ørsted, the biggest energy company in Denmark, to develop two 6-megawatt test turbines 27 miles off the coast near the lease area to gauge whether it was worth going forward with a larger commercial-scale investment.
Environmental groups have been pushing for such progress for years.
“Orsted is on the brink of announcing who their blade developer is going to be, and Orsted is very excited about this,” said Eileen Woll, offshore energy program director at Sierra Club Virginia, in a phone call. “We are sitting on pins and needles waiting for Dominion to file with the SCC for that test turbine project.”
Under the current plan, the turbines would be operational by 2021.
Northam and others have touted Virginia for offshore turbines for years, citing its deep-water ports, maritime workforce, the world’s largest shipbuilding industry and open shipping channels.
“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 May.
Officials have said the offshore wind industry would create tens of thousands of jobs in the region. And coastal communities largely view offshore wind more favorably than offshore oil and gas development.
“Responsibly sited offshore wind can and should play a major role in our nation’s energy future because it’s clean, safe and reliable,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director for the D.C.-based advocacy group Oceana on Monday.
Sierra Club Virginia plans to follow up Wednesday’s listening session with its own town hall on offshore wind set for 7 p.m. Monday, July 30, in McGrew Towers Conference Center, Hampton University, 24 Indian Road in Hampton.
That meeting is also free and open to the public, but anyone wishing to attend is asked to RSVP at bit.ly/2L7uOhN.