PEOPLE CAN ARGUE about the details, now that Dominion Energy has started building Virginia's first offshore wind energy project off the coast of Virginia Beach. But no one should minimize the significance of this move toward a more sustainable future.
On May 28, 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.
With a unanimous vote in support of developing offshore wind near Virginia’s coast, the city of Chesapeake took another step toward a better future, pledging its support for this practical type of renewable energy with real potential in this area. The cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission are among groups that have taken similar actions.
The offshore wind industry offers significant economic potential for Virginia and for the entire the east coast. The federal Department of Energy estimates the industry could employ up to 40,000 people by 2030. With our low tax burden, highly skilled workforce and world class port infrastructure, Virginia is well-positioned to capture these economic benefits and become a hub for the offshore wind supply chain.
Offshore wind — and the ability to serve as a national-level power generation, distribution and logistical Atlantic coast hub for this market — is an opportunity that should not be missed. As we have done with port modernization and sea-level rise, ODU has the technical, logistical and academic expertise to leverage a group of public and private sector leaders to capture this potential.
Gov. Ralph Northam is pushing a plan for Virginia — and Hampton Roads — to become a supply chain and service hub for offshore wind energy development in the Atlantic. The plan is part of a “roadmap” that the governor’s office recently released on ways to attract investors, developers and manufacturers as the offshore wind industry gathers steam in the U.S.
So, what appears to be a high cost for the CVOW project actually paves the way for stable, lower costs as the much larger wind farms come online over the long haul. Last, let’s not forget the important benefits of economic development and thousands of high-skilled local jobs, and the mitigation of sea level rise and coastal storm surges, a critical issue for Norfolk and other oceanfront communities.
CVOW supporters agree that investing in a pilot project with a higher per-kilowatt-hour cost but lower overall capital expenditures could lead to more rapid development of larger, less expensive offshore wind farms in the Southeast. Indeed, costs have dropped significantly over the last several years mainly due to the scaling up of the industry in Europe and better management of project development risk.
CVOW represents a unique opportunity to translate these lessons learned into cost-savings for ratepayers, potential opportunities for the Commonwealth’s universities and, ultimately, a full-scale buildout of Virginia’s offshore wind resources. Full buildout will grow the Commonwealth’s economy and diversify its portfolio of electricity generation sources.