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Dominion Moves, Albeit Slowly and (Far Too) Cautiously, Towards Developing Virginia’s Massive Offshore Wind Resources

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As always is the case with Dominion Energy, I’m highly skeptical about their intentions, seriousness, etc.  Still, this announcement (see below) is interesting, as a lot of us had been assuming Dominion was planning to sit on its offshore wind power leases forever and not develop them. So, at least this is a start, albeit a very small one for now.  Still, Dong is a serious wind power company, and as the press release says, this pilot project “opens the door to long-term commercial wind development” off the coast of Virginia. What we need to do going forward is keep pressuring Dominion to move as rapidly as possible towards tapping into the massive offshore wind power potential (according to Oceana, “Virginia’s coastline would modestly allow for the development of 16 gigawatts of offshore wind power in economically recoverable areas. This offshore wind power could generate at least 83 percent of Virginia’s current electricity generation, displace about 82 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and power approximately 5.5 million average homes annually”).

UPDATE: Former Virginia Sierra Club leader Glen Besa says, “While this is welcome news, it does not make us a “leader” as #DomEnergy‘s Tom Farrell claims. 12 MWs is not commercial scale. We need an initial commitment of 400 MW by 2022 before we can claim a leadership role. Then 2000 MW by 2030. Let’s hope this is more than hype and greenwashing that Dom is so good at.” I’d add my suspicions that, as a Democratic Virginia Delegate put it to me, this could be Dominion’s way of saying “hey, look over here, NOT at the fracked gas pipelines.” Oh, and of course Terry McAuliffe can and will tout this in his 2020 presidential campaign…

Dominion Energy Moving Forward on Offshore Wind Project with Global Market Leader DONG Energy as Partner

– DONG Energy of Denmark to construct 12 megawatts of offshore wind energy

– Builds on Dominion Energy’s strong commitment, investment in clean renewable energy

– Site located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach

RICHMOND, Va.July 10, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — As part of its ongoing commitment to bring cleaner energy to its customers, Dominion Energy Virginia is moving forward on the mid-Atlantic’s first offshore wind project in a federal lease area.  It has signed an agreement and strategic partnership with DONG Energy of Denmark, a global leader in offshore wind development, to build two 6-megawatt turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach. The two companies will now begin refining agreements for engineering, procurement and construction. Dominion Energy remains the sole owner of the project.

Engineering and development work on the newly named Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is expected to begin immediately by DONG Energy to support the targeted installation by the end of 2020. The timing for construction depends on many factors such as weather and protected species migration patterns.

The project is an important first step toward offshore wind development for Virginia and the United States. It would be only the second offshore wind project in the nation and the first owned by an electric utility company. Along with clean energy, it will provide Dominion Energy with valuable experience in managing offshore wind resources.

Virginia is now positioned to be a leader in developing more renewable energy thanks to the Commonwealth’s committed leadership and DONG’s unrivaled expertise in building offshore wind farms,” said Thomas F. Farrell, II, Dominion Energy’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “While we have faced many technological challenges and even more doubters as we advanced this project, we have been steadfast in our commitment to our customers and the communities we serve.”

“Today marks the first step in what I expect to be the deployment of hundreds of wind turbines off Virginia’s coast that will further diversify our energy production portfolio, create thousands of jobs, and reduce carbon emissions in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “Hampton Roads has the ideal port assets and talented workforce to attract and house the offshore wind business supply chain to support not only Virginia’s commercial wind area, but also wind farms under development in MassachusettsNew York, and Maryland. Today’s announcement advances our efforts to build a new Virginia economy that is cleaner, stronger, and more diverse.”

“DONG Energy is the energy supplier in Europe that has come the farthest in the transition to renewable energy, and we are excited to bring our expertise to America,” said Samuel Leupold, executive vice president and CEO of Wind Power at DONG Energy. “This project will provide us vital experience in constructing an offshore wind project in the United Statesand serve as a stepping stone to a larger commercial-scale partnership between our companies in the future. We see the tremendous potential in the Mid-Atlantic for emission-free, renewable wind generation and we are excited to help the Commonwealth in reaping the benefits of wind power.”

This phase one development of two wind turbines will be built approximately 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach on a 2,135-acre site leased by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.  The project opens the door to long-term commercial wind development. It will provide critical operational, weather and environmental experience needed for large-scale development in the adjacent 112,800-acre site leased by Dominion Energy from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Full deployment could generate up to 2,000 megawatts of energy – enough to power half a million homes.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding which gives DONG Energy exclusive rights to discuss a strategic partnership with Dominion Energy about developing the commercial site based on successful deployment of the initial test turbines.

DONG Energy, based in Denmark with North American headquarters in Boston, owns 22 offshore wind farms in Europeand Asia. DONG Energy brings to the project significant experience in engineering, manufacturing, construction and supply chain management.

The project continues what previously was called the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Assessment Project (VOWTAP). Dominion Energy began work on the project in 2011 as part of a Department of Energy grant to develop and test new wind technologies that could lower the cost and withstand hurricanes. During that time key achievements were made to advance the project including: Approval of the Research Activities Plan by BOEM and environmental studies, which included avian and bat surveys, as well as assessments of ocean currents, archeological conditions, and whale migration patterns.

  • Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s Statement on Virginia Offshore Wind Project Announcement

    Richmond, Va. – Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam released the following statement in response to today’s announcement of Virginia’s first offshore wind project.

    “Governor McAuliffe and our administration have worked urgently to reduce our carbon footprint and invest in renewable energy to protect our Commonwealth for generations to come. Today’s announcement of two wind turbines’ construction off the coast of Virginia Beach is a promising step forward. I look forward to seeing the project move forward, and I will continue to advocate for diversifying Virginia’s energy economy in the years to come.”

  • Video: Dominion Energy, Dong Announce Virginia Offshore Wind Development

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyuia0Cycxo

  • From the Virginia Sierra Club:

    Dong Jolts Dominion’s Offshore Wind Project to Life, Partnership with Proven Offshore Wind Developer Announced

    RICHMOND, Virginia– Today Dominion Energy announced plans to partner with Denmark’s Dong Energy to develop its otherwise dormant 12 megawatt test turbine project off the Virginia coast. In response, Eileen Levandoski, Assistant Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, released the following statement:

    “We are very encouraged to see Dominion take steps to actualize offshore wind off Virginia’s coast. Dong Energy is a proven leader in offshore wind development having built more offshore wind farms than any other company worldwide. Hopefully Dong will have little tolerance for any further delay tactics Dominion attempts to make in developing offshore wind.

    Dominion dragged their feet on offshore wind in the time between the loss of the DOE grant in May 2016 and today’s announcement. In that same time, America’s first offshore wind farm began operation off the coast of Rhode Island in December 2016.

    We also hope that this partnership with Dong will prod Dominion’s build-out of the commercial lease area it purchased over 3.5 years ago. While the commitment to 12 megawatts by 2020 is helpful, the crisis we face with climate change demands that Dominion also engage aggressively on the commercial lease area and immediately commit to 400 MW by 2022 and 2000 by 2030.”

    The company’s buildout of this project comes as a desperate part of their rebranding effort, and runs in contrast to their efforts to lock Virginia into a fracked gas future with a massive rollout of fracked gas power plants as well as the massive 42-inch, 600 mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

    This 12MW investment is a drop in the bucket of Virginia’s clean energy potential, wherein Hampton Roads could serve as a hub for offshore wind development, creating countless careers for Virginians in the area.

  • From the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN):

    Dominion’s Offshore Wind Announcement Undercut by Efforts to Stymie Clean Energy and Expand Fossil Fuels

    Statement by Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network:

    We welcome the news that Dominion is making steps to bring offshore wind to Virginia. But this should have happened years ago. Dominion already lost a federal grant for $40 million for dragging its feet on the project. Will ratepayers have to foot that bill? Now, Dominion is moving forward because it has no choice — it is clear that offshore wind is an economic winner.

    Meanwhile, Dominion continues to push for dangerous climate-warming fossil fuel projects like the Atlantic Coast pipeline, along with the support of Governor Terry McAuliffe. The offshore wind pilot project is nowhere near what’s needed to bring us to a clean energy economy. If McAuliffe and Dominion were truly serious about helping Virginia become a leader in clean energy, they would stop pushing for fracked-gas pipelines and start focusing on expanding clean energy.

  • Video: Gov. McAuliffe says Dominion announcement “just the beginning” en route to 2,000 MW of offshore windpower (I sure hope so, but I don’t trust Dominion as far as I can throw it)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th2klh_kzkI

  • Del. Marcus Simon:

    I’m glad to see Dominion Energy is dipping its toe in the water where offshore wind power is concerned.

    Two turbines seems a bit underwhelming, even for a pilot program- it is a start, though.
    One of the things I’ve learned recently is that Virginia’s offshore areas set aside for wind power have the potential to provide more than 80% of Virginia’s electricity. We could electrify more than 5 million homes without adding any carbon to the atmosphere.

    I wish Dominion much luck in their experiment, and will continue to push them to think bigger and move faster, or if they won’t, then to get out of the way.