First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm In Federal Waters Completed, Ready to Spin

Gov. Northam of Virginia and one of the new turbines        Photo: Steve Helber, AP

On Monday, the state of Virginia and Dominion Energy announced the completion of the second offshore wind facility in the U.S. and the first one in federal waters.  Its two turbines sit 27 miles off the coast and when operational later this summer, will produce enough electricity to power 3000 homes.  It is a 12 MW pilot for a much larger 2,640 MW proposed project that is slated to come online in 2024 and power 650,000 homes.  The first offshore wind farm is the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, which only began commercial operations in 2016.  Several other wind farms are planned for states up and down the east coast, but the farthest along, Vineyard Wind, is currently stuck in extended environmental review by the Trump Administration, as we have reported.

Why This Matters:  If the waters off Virginia are suitable for wind farms, with their close proximity to ports, naval facilities, and tourism, then it is hard to imagine why wind power can’t be developed in many other areas along the U.S. coast.  The U.S. is way behind Europe, which already has 22GW of offshore wind power operating today.  Yes. We can do this and not compromise the environment or biodiversity – and even in the midst of a pandemic.  

Dominion Rebranding

As The Washington Post points out, Dominion Energy is also pushing hard to complete the highly unpopular Atlantic pipeline that is still facing numerous permit battles despite the recent decision by the Supreme Court that allows it to tunnel under the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia’s mountains.  Dominion has tried to “rebrand” itself and this wind project is a big part of that effort, as well as high profile promises to close its remaining coal-fired power plants in the coming years.  The project is also part of Northam’s effort to make Virginia the leader in offshore wind.  Also part of the plan is a $350M proposal to  $350  make the Port of Virginia the deepest on the East Coast so that it will be a staging area for assembling the gigantic wind turbines used in this and other East Coast projects.  But Baltimore also has ambitions to provide that launchpad for offshore wind in the region.

Environmental Benefits

The development of renewable energy projects is an important part of the state’s new clean energy law — one of the most progressive in the nation.   The law requires that all its coal-fired power plants be closed by 2024 and its electricity will all come from renewable sources and be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050 with penalties imposed on the utilities that fail to meet these deadlines.  And unlike in New England where wind farms are seen as incompatible with fishing businesses, Governor Northam touted this project as providing more than just electricity.   The rocky aprons at the base of the towers will attract fish according to the Governor.  The boats can’t get too close the turbines, but “[a]s long as we can get this close, we’ll be in good shape,” Northam told The Post.

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