Virginia emerging as South’s first offshore wind giant

virginia logoOver 250 local businesses and offshore wind experts met today to discuss Virginia’s emerging role in the U.S. offshore wind industry, positioning it as the South’s first offshore wind giant.

The Business Network for Offshore Wind, along with the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, served as hosts for the Virginia Offshore Wind Executive Summit at the Hilton Norfolk. 

Recently, Virginia designated 5,000 megawatts (MW) of solar and wind resources in the public interest. Participants discussed factors contributing to a strategy for the commercial development of at least 2,000 MW of offshore wind. This would enable the offshore wind industry to become a major energy resource and job generator for Virginians.

Speaking at the Summit, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said, “Offshore wind is a tremendous victory for Virginia, providing the potential for a new industry, offering valuable fuel diversity, reducing our carbon footprint, and serving as an important economic engine. Virginia is on the leading edge in advancing clean energy resources, and we have a clear opportunity to act as a change agent in driving development.”

As a first step, Virginia is moving forward with a 12 MW demonstration project consisting of two 6 MW turbines that will provide significant research and development as the industry grows off the Virginia coast. This demonstration project will provide important information to stakeholders, including the military, commercial and recreational interests, and other governmental entities. Anticipating completion by 2020, this project will be the first constructed in federal waters and the first owned by an electric utility. 

“The research project will provide the local supply chain experience, help streamline the Federal regulatory process and demonstrate new technologies while maintaining their ability to withstandhurricanes,” said Liz Burdock, the President and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind.

“Virginia is a great State and has many assets to support the development of the Southeast offshore wind supply chain, including no height restrictions or bridges for the turbines to battle, fabulous port infrastructure and well-qualified, and skilled labor force.”

Eileen Woll, director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter’s offshore energy program, added, “Virginia’s leaders have an immediate opportunity to strengthen the Virginia economy for working families and create safer, healthier communities by tapping into our vast offshore wind resource.”

Woll also pointed to a recently released report by BVG Associates outlining a “Vision for Virginia Offshore Wind”.

By immediately leveraging its unique competitive advantages, Virginia can supply key components to the first wave of offshore wind projects being developed farther north,” said Woll.  “As a result, Virginia will derive immediate economic benefits, ensure development of its own 2 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2028, and provide the tipping point for a second wave of projects in the mid – and Southeast Atlantic.”

Events like today’s summit are critically important for industry growth, especially in new markets like Virginia,” said Fred Zalcman, Head of Government Affairs, North America, for Ørsted, which signed a contract with Dominion to build the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.  “Virginia is well positioned to take a leading role in this new industry boom, but it must be aggressive and forward-thinking in its policymaking in the coming years.”


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