HAMPTON ROADS — If a Virginian takes a boat ride and travels 27 miles off the coast, they will catch a towering glimpse at what might become the norm in just a few decades’ time.
Two offshore wind turbines extend out of the Atlantic, standing at approximately 620 feet in height, with their propellers outstretched and slightly curved, almost resembling the arms of a starfish.
Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) pilot project may have changed the ocean’s horizon line, but due to its distance from the shore and the curvature of the Earth, one might find it difficult to spot the turbines from 757’s beaches.
The multi-billion-dollar, multi-state utility company first filed an application for its 12-megawatt pilot project with Virginia’s State Corporation Commission back in Aug. 2018. However, Dominion Energy has been consulting with Virginia stakeholders since CVOW’s earliest stages of development and planning, which, according to the company, began in 2011.
“It’s been about a decade,” said Media Relations for Dominion Energy Jeremy L. Slayton in an interview with WYDaily. “For the commercial project, we got the lease in 2013. So we’ve been working with stakeholder groups and interested parties for about a decade. While it’s still fairly fresh and new, it is not something that we just all of a sudden jumped into. We’ve been working on it and planning for it and having conversations about it for a while.”
Dominion Energy first executed, or signed, a 113,000-acre lease with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in Nov. 2013. This was the company’s first major step into what has now become a timeline accelerated by a key piece of state legislation, entitled the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
Signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam in 2020, this piece of legislation moves Dominion Energy’s statewide energy production to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
With millions of dollars invested into the construction of the pilot project and following an abundance of hours lobbying in Richmond, Dominion Energy lined up an undeniable effort for the Commonwealth to harness one of the ocean’s most abundant resources: wind.
The pilot project’s two mechanical contraptions were successfully installed in the Atlantic in May 2020, and now the turbines’ propeller arms wave in the wind as if to say, “Hello! I’m here, and I’m here to stay.”
Since the pilot project’s contractors laid the steel foundations and about 70 feet of scour protection made up in part by large rocks, the two turbines now host a bolstering ecosystem complete with black bass, algae, clams, and starfish.
To see more of the wildlife, please click on the video below (courtesy of Dominion Energy):
“We have a research lease, and we have to do an ROV [Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle] survey,” said Dominion Energy’s Environmental Technical Advisor Scott Lawton to WYDaily. “So we put an ROV down there. Obviously, it’s safer than putting a diver in the water.”
“We’re really looking for marine growth,” Lawton added. “As it’s [the ROV] going down, about eight feet away you get all these fish swimming out there.”
The company will be studying this habitat over the course of the next ten years. However, the real reason for this artificial reef and for the turbines’ permanent residency, is the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
These two turbines are Dominion Energy’s proof of concept, and they can power up to 3,000 homes at peak output.
The big picture plan from Dominion Energy is to set up 176 wind turbines at a massive offshore wind farm. The project is slated to be complete in 2026 and, according to the company, it will be the largest project of its kind in the United States.
Each individual turbine at this wind farm will stand taller than the two produced by the pilot project.
The new turbines will stand more than 800 feet tall and will generate 2.6 gigawatts.
According to John Larson, the director of public policy and economic development at Dominion Energy, this offshore wind farm will be as big as 85,000 football fields.
“The 2,600 megawatts can power 660,000 homes,” said Lawson. “That’s roughly 25 percent of our customers in Virginia that we can power with this one single generation asset. Also, that amount of power will be made without having to combust or use any type of fuel. So, if you think about it, that means no emissions from the turbines as they’re generating that energy. It’s the equivalent of taking one million non-electric vehicles off the road a year. That would be the reduction in emissions that would come from this type of generation.”
The wind farm will be connected to an offshore substation via an underground “Inter-Array Cable.” The substation will then, through a series of underground cabling, export energy to a switching station called the “point of interconnecting,” where it will then connect to an onshore substation. It will then be distributed through a proposed route.
“Storage facilities will be spread across the system,” said Larson. “A lot of times they’ll be paired with solar. Facilities are in close proximity to that. So we have three pilot projects out right now, and we just completed a solicitation where we are receiving proposals from various third parties for additional solar and storage projects.”
“There’s a lot to be done in the next fifteen years,” Larson added.
Companies Part of The Project