Editorial: The future of energy blows through ODU

The Virginian-Pilot editorial

The Ted Constant Center at Old Dominion University has played host to its fair share of moments that stir the memories. On Tuesday, it will help those in the facility’s “Big Blue Room” peer into the future.

A coalition of groups — ODU, the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the ReInvent Hampton Roads — will host a forum about the future of offshore wind, featuring a panel discussion with many of the leaders working to transform those dreams into a tangible reality.

Virginia sits on the edge of an energy revolution, both figuratively and quite literally, because offshore wind energy represents an enormous untapped source of power for the commonwealth and the country.

The coastal region could be an abundant and lucrative producer of wind-generated power if it can establish the framework necessary to efficiently and effectively collect and distribute it. That could mean thousands of jobs, millions in revenue and a future of reliable, clean and renewable energy.

It’s not just a matter of putting some turbines out in the water and connecting them to the grid. Rather, Virginia should be looking at wind energy as an untapped economic sector, ripe with opportunity for generation, component construction and installation, technological innovation, and storage capacity.

In December, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office released a plan to accomplish that, a roadmap for developing an offshore wind supply chain that emphasizes Virginia’s potential in that market and illuminates the ways to reach it.

The plan was developed by a consulting firm, working at the direction of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, and it calls for the creation of an office for offshore wind to coordinate the effort. It encouraged partnership with other states, collaborative relationships between government and business, and positioning the state to corner a particular aspect of the production market.

It’s an ambitious blueprint, to be sure, but one worth pursuing. A firm hold of this sector would mean firm footing for the state’s energy future and diversity the regional economy.

What’s more, wind power has the added benefit of not producing carbon emissions which contribute to global heating, sea level rise and climate change. Rising seas, along with land subsidence, put the future of this region at risk, and weaning ourselves from fossil fuels is a necessary step toward extending the viability of Hampton Roads as a place to safely live, work, play and visit.

The Tuesday event begins at 7 p.m. Come and see what the future holds.