By Peter Coutu
April 1, 2019
Chesapeake decided to support developing offshore wind near Virginia's coast, continuing the city's push for renewable energy.
The city council's unanimous vote in favor of offshore wind last Tuesday night means it joins several other groups and localities — including the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the City of Norfolk and the City of Virginia Beach — that have already made a similar pledge.
“I look to children and grandchildren and ask, ‘What's their future going to be if we don't look forward to another way of doing things?’” said Mayor Rick West, who requested that the city attorney introduce the resolution.
In 2018, Virginia's General Assembly passed legislation that stated adding 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy to the state's generation portfolio by 2028 is in the public interest. About 40 percent of that could come from a 112,799-acre area about 27 miles off of the coast of Virginia Beach that has been leased to Dominion Energy.
Eventually, the construction of wind turbines in that area could produce roughly 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy — which could eliminate 3 million tons of carbon pollution annually, reduce Virginia's out-of-state electricity dependence by 30 percent and power half a million homes, according to the Sierra Club.
In a pilot project, Dominion Energy plans to build the two 6-megawatt turbine generators by late 2020.
The resolution not only states Chesapeake — which recently approved a 234-acre solar farm — will support the development of offshore wind, but also calls on state agencies to accelerate the process.
“There's many of us who believe this is a viable option,” West said.
The resolution passed with little discussion from the city council, and one person from the public speaking in favor. Research shows there is broad support for the pursuit of renewable energy. Roughly 85 percent of Chesapeake residents want more funding for the research into such energy, according to data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Beyond environmental reasons, West said offshore wind could bring a significant economic impact to the region and Chesapeake.
Using Virginia's coast to develop offshore wind energy could help Hampton Roads become a hub for the industry in the mid-Atlantic, bringing many high paying jobs while helping diversify the region's economy, he said. And, West explained, it could help lure new companies.
“It's the right thing to do,” he said. “And, from a business standpoint, it's an advantage.”