Home Innovation fund to power up Southwest Virginia if $10M proposal from the governor advances

Innovation fund to power up Southwest Virginia if $10M proposal from the governor advances

Crystal Graham
glenn youngkin in norton
Governor Glenn Youngkin announces Energy Innovation investment in Norton. Official photo by Christian Martinez, Office of the Governor.

Virginia is looking to create a Power Innovation Fund for research and development of innovative energy technologies including nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture and utilization and battery storage.

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced today he will propose $10 million in the upcoming budget to create the fund. The governor also announced $5 million of this funding will advance the goal laid out in the recently released “all-of-the-above” Virginia Energy Plan,

The plan has a goal to grow Virginia’s nuclear energy industry by establishing a Virginia Nuclear Innovation Hub. These funds will also include grants for higher education institutions to study small modular nuclear reactor technology, funding for nuclear workforce development, and additional money for SMR site exploration, including in Southwest Virginia.

“Today I am pleased to propose a $10 million investment in the upcoming budget to turn Virginia into a leader in energy innovation,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin Friday in Norton. “With technologies like carbon capture and utilization, and resources like critical minerals, hydrogen, and nuclear, we will make Virginia the epicenter for reliable and affordable energy innovation.”

The Commonwealth’s funds are part of an intergovernmental effort with Virginia’s federal representatives to utilize state and federal resources to turn Virginia into a leading energy innovator.

Governor Youngkin recognized Representative Morgan Griffith’s (R-VA) partnership in these efforts to bring resources included in the abandoned mine land economic revitalization program and other federal programs into Virginia, especially Southwest.

“I am thrilled to work with Governor Youngkin to bring federal funds back to the hardworking folks of Southwest Virginia. With these new efforts, Southwest can seize its potential and become the leading energy region in the United States,” said Griffith.

The governor made the announcement at a reclaimed mine site in Norton in Southwest Virginia’s coalfield region. The mine selected is an example of a possible location for an SMR or other energy facility. Southwest Virginia includes hundreds of similar locations ready for development as potential energy and economic development sites.

Southwest Virginia is home to abundant energy resources in addition to traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas, according to a news release from the governor’s office. Abandoned underground mines contain billions of gallons of water and naturally seep methane which can be captured and used to create hydrogen to heat homes, fuel industrial processes and generate electricity.

Carbon capture and utilization technologies offer an opportunity to reduce carbon emissions by capturing CO2, storing it in abandoned mines and coal seams, and using it in industrial and chemical processes like concrete and paint manufacturing.

Southwest Virginia also has substantial deposits of minerals critical to America’s domestic industry, including manganese and metallurgical coal necessary to successfully onshore industrial supply chains and expand America’s battery manufacturing to support clean energy like wind and solar. This wealth of energy resources is what inspired the establishment of the Energy DELTA Lab in Pound, which is a first-of-its-kind energy technology testbed that will provide laboratories and scientific assistance to promote energy innovation.

“Today’s announcement validates the concept of our energy testbed announced by Governor Youngkin that Southwest Virginia is a strategic location in which to deploy innovative energy assets,” said Mike Quillen, chair of the Energy DELTA Lab and the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority. “Our team looks forward to supporting the Virginia Innovative Nuclear Hub by coordinating on-the-ground efforts throughout Southwest Virginia.”

The mission of the Virginia nuclear innovation hub will be to support innovation in advanced nuclear technologies by identifying technological needs, supporting research by Virginia’s colleges and businesses, identifying nuclear workforce gaps, bolstering workforce training and education, and identifying supply chain gaps and filling those gaps with Virginia-made products.

The Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority will facilitate the Hub and its activities to maximize their effectiveness. Established by legislation in 2013, VNECA was established to seize on the Commonwealth’s nuclear advantage and make Virginia a leader in the nuclear energy industry.

Under VNECA, the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium was created to represent and bring together stakeholders across the nuclear energy industry including state government, colleges and universities, nuclear energy companies, suppliers, and other organizations that support the advancement of nuclear energy industry.

“This is a proud day for the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium. The nuclear industry here in Virginia has always led the way in energy innovation. The Virginia nuclear innovation hub will unite academic research and the public and private sectors to leverage the Commonwealth’s tremendous nuclear capability in pursuit of next generation advanced nuclear technologies,” said VNEC Co-Chair and Founder Alireza Haghighat.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.