REGIONAL — On Thursday, July 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior (USDOI) announced that it will initiate an environmental review of Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project.
During a tour of the Port of Virginia in Norfolk, USDOI Secretary Deb Haaland, along with Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), announced that the USDOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will initiate this environmental review.
Virginia’s offshore wind project, which is located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, and 30 nautical miles from the Port, will be among the first in the nation to undergo this new federal permitting process, which is designed to accelerate offshore wind development in the United States.
The issuance of a Notice of Intent (NOI) from BOEM marks the first major milestone in the federal permitting of the 2.6-gigawatt large-scale commercial wind project, according to a July 1 news release from the Office of the Governor.
“The demand for offshore wind energy has never been greater. Meanwhile, recent technological advances, falling costs, and tremendous economic potential make offshore wind a promising avenue for diversifying our national energy portfolio, creating good-paying union jobs, and tackling climate change,” said Haaland in the news release.
Secretary Haaland, Gov. Northam, and Sen. Kaine were joined by federal, state, and local officials to tour the Port of Virginia prior to the announcement last Thursday.
The port is currently undergoing significant upgrades to accommodate the heavy load capacity necessary in the construction of offshore wind projects in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Haaland added that yesterday’s tour provided a chance to learn about the Commonwealth’s role in developing the offshore wind industry and attracting and supporting the domestic supply chain.
“Virginia is all in on offshore wind. We are developing the infrastructure, workforce, supply chain, and manufacturing capabilities needed to capture the many benefits of this emerging industry,” said Governor Northam in a released statement. “This announcement puts our Commonwealth on a path to harnessing the power of wind to produce affordable and reliable renewable energy, create thousands of new jobs, and meet our ambitious climate goals.”
The announcement follows a recent agreement between BOEM and the North Atlantic Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that will give federal agencies additional scientific and technical resources to evaluate offshore wind projects.
The initiative, developed in partnership with Old Dominion University and facilitated by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), is critical to ensuring new offshore wind leases are approved in a timely manner, according to the news release.
“Building a domestic offshore wind supply chain is a key step needed to meet this administration’s goal of 30 gigawatts by 2030,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “If approved, the CVOW-C project will represent another step forward to help the United States leverage existing manufacturing and workforce capabilities to grow a network of domestic suppliers.”
As part of the first offshore wind project in federal waters, two six-megawatt Siemens Gamesa wind turbines were installed by Dominion and Ørsted in 2020. It is the first and currently the only research lease in the country where technologies can be tested, providing critical information for the offshore wind industry to help reduce the cost of energy.
Also in 2020, Gov. Northam and the Virginia General Assembly set a target for Virginia to generate 5.2 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2034. A new law was passed that created a path for the development of at least two offshore wind projects, which are currently planned to interconnect into Virginia.
This legislation will also provide certainty to the offshore wind industry by creating a pathway for project developers to recover their costs, while containing costs and protecting low-income Virginians.
These measures will help to ensure healthy competition in the procurement of offshore wind projects, bringing diverse offshore wind companies to Virginia to compete in the market and lower costs for Virginia consumers.
The Commonwealth also created its first-ever Division of Offshore Wind within DMME, which will drive statewide policy to support offshore wind, work with stakeholders, and coordinate economic development opportunities to help grow the offshore wind industry in an equitable manner.
During yesterday’s tour, the leaders also discussed the workforce needs of the fast-growing offshore wind industry, which could create nearly 80,000 new jobs nationwide by 2030. Gov. Northam highlighted the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance, Virginia’s first offshore and onshore wind workforce training collaborative. This program will offer industry-required certifications that are critical to the operations and long-term maintenance of wind projects.
The Commonwealth has partnered with states along the East Coast to encourage policy and practices that will demonstrate that the United States is open for offshore wind development.
In May, Virginia was one of nine states that sent a letter to President Biden encouraging the Biden-Harris Administration to continue prioritizing offshore wind.
More information about the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial (CVOW-C) project, the BOEM’s environmental review process, and the virtual public meetings can be found here.