In a July media release, Dominion Energy has announced plans to move forward on an offshore wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach. After reaching an agreement with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to lease 2,000 acres on the Atlantic Ocean for wind turbine use, Dominion plans to install two turbines, each producing six-megawatts of renewable wind energy. The turbines will be located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.
“It’s a demonstration project to see, among other things, how well wind turbines can withstand hurricane-type conditions, which are prevalent in the mid-Atlantic,”said Dan Genest, media relations/generation or Dominion.
This is technically Dominion’s second attempt at creating an offshore wind farm. After attempting to initiate a similar project back in 2011, entitled the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Assessment Project (VOWTAP), Dominion could not settle with a large offshore wind company to help fund the project. That’s where Dong Energy comes in.
Dominion Energy has partnered with Dong Energy, a leading offshore wind technology company in Europe, and the largest energy company in Denmark. “We approached Dong because we knew they were an expert in the field, a worldwide leader, and asked them,” said Genest.
Dong Energy will be leading in engineering, building, and maintaining the turbines, including excavation into the ocean floor to install the cables and pipes leading from the turbines to the shore. The turbines themselves won’t be visible from the beaches of Virginia Beach due to the curvature of the earth plus the distance from the shore.
Additionally, the turbines won’t affect the shipping routes that frequent the waters of the Virginia coastline. “They will be placed on all of the navigational maps,” said Genest. “As part of its research, when it determined what areas could be leased for wind turbine development, BOEM and the Coast Guard and several other state and federal agencies did a very thorough study of all of the shipping lanes. They’ve located an area that has minimum shipping.”
Although the exact number is unclear, Genest guarantees the project will create jobs. “The port of Virginia would be used for importing all of the parts and materials,” he said. According to Dong Energy, the Department of Energy reported last year that more than 500,000 people were employed in the renewable energy industry.
Additionally, Dong states that an average offshore wind project creates up to 1,000 construction/installation jobs, with around 100 year-round jobs, which would be beneficial for the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area, whose unemployment rates range from 3.5-4.5 percent.
“Virginia Beach is an excellent spot for this demonstration and eventual large-scale farm,” Genest said. “In Virginia, there are very few areas that can support wind farms. We just don’t have the winds.”
The coast of Virginia has rather moderate wind rates in comparison to the rest of the country, according to BOEM. Genest said that, after running studies across the commonwealth, there are very few areas that could support a 30-40 percent running time, which is optimal for a wind farm. However, the Virginia coastline has optimal conditions for such requirements.
Since this a demonstration project, Dominion has bigger plans for an offshore wind farm. “If it proves to be successful, and we move toward doing the commercial area, it would have up to 2,000 megawatts of wind turbine production,” said Genest. The 2,000 acres Dominion has leased in the Atlantic Ocean will eventually carry dozens of wind turbines. However, these plans will be for an undetermined future date. Each megawatt of energy would serve 250 customers of Dominion, meaning this large-scale project could affect a large portion of the coastal cities and perhaps even beyond.
This hopeful project comes at a time where Dominion is under substantial criticism due to the plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which has greatly upset many Virginia residents. Dominion’s spotty history with renewable energy has affected not only its customers, but also those who are affected by the projects that shy away from renewable energy, such as the ACP.
Genest cites the high prices of installing and maintaining renewable energy, such as solar, for the commonwealth. “We have always believed in renewable energy, but until recently the cost of renewable energy was such that we couldn’t justify it in large scale for our customers,” said Genest.
Breaths are held as Dominion prepares to break ground with Dong Energy off the coast of Virginia Beach. And if all fares well, Dominion will move forward in bringing renewable energy to Virginia.
“As part of the agreement, we have told Dong that they would be eligible if we proceeded to the commercial development portion of this, to work with us on that,” said Genest.