What are said to be the largest cranes to operate at a U.S. commercial port arrived Monday in Virginia, marking the latest effort to accommodate the increasingly mammoth container ships that underpin international trade.
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.
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.
The pressure to make the turbines happen isn't just coming from the Legislature — it's also coming from the Democratic governor, Ralph Northam. A reworked energy master plan published by his administration's energy officials this month calls for the state to install 2 GW of offshore wind over a decade.
Northam cited Virginia’s location and deep expertise in shipbuilding and other trades as reasons why it could also support manufacturing. He added that 14,000 jobs could ultimately support the industry in Virginia. Northam said Virginia “has a clear opportunity to act as a change agent in driving the development of U.S. offshore wind.”
Dominion Energy Virginia is about to map uncharted waters with a $300 million project to research the use of wind power off Virginia’s Atlantic coast to generate electricity for millions of homes and businesses in the state. “This is an important first step we know will lead us on a much longer journey,” Dominion CEO Thomas F. Farrell II said in a ceremony at the Nauticus museum Friday.
“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.”
The dredging project will take the channels to 55 feet deep and widen them in select areas to allow for two-way traffic of ultra-large containerships. A channel that is equipped to handle two-way vessel traffic increases the pace of commerce and makes way for the expeditious movement of Navy vessels in a time of need.
“Virginia has great assets,” [Business Network for Offshore Wind executive director Liz] Burdock said, adding that she could envision the Hampton Roads area evolving into a hub for fabricating steel turbine foundations. Her nonprofit, founded in 2012, focuses on beefing up the U.S. supply chain up and down the East Coast.
The budget about to be signed by Gov. Ralph Northam includes $350 million to kick-start a major dredging project in the shipping channel. If the project goes forward, shipping channels in the port of Hampton Roads will go from 50 feet to 55 feet in some places, surpassing Los Angeles, the busiest port in the nation. A Northam spokeswoman said the expansion would increase the port’s capacity by 40 percent or, put another way, 1 million more containers.
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.
Dominion Energy is reviving plans for an offshore wind energy project 27 miles east of Virginia Beach in a move it hopes will set the stage to make the Hampton Roads region a national leader in a still-developing technology. The company hopes to have two wind turbines — “taller than the Washington Monument” as CEO chief executive Tom Farrell put it — online by the end of 2020.