More than 250 local businesses and offshore wind experts met last week to discuss Virginia’s emerging role in the US 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.
Participants discussed factors contributing to a strategy for the commercial development of at least 2 GW 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 energy 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.
The demonstration project will provide important information to stakeholders, including 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 withstand hurricanes,” said Business Network for Offshore Wind president, Liz Burdock.
“Virginia has many assets to support the development of the southeast offshore wind supply chain, including fabulous port infrastructure and a well-qualified, skilled labour force.”
Mrs Burdock described the meeting as “critical and timely”. She said Virginia is scheduled to be the first state to put offshore wind turbines in federal water, “which is extremely important.
“This project will provide the local supply chain experience, help government understand how regulations may or may not impact developments resulting in changes in regulatory process and coordination and communication between agencies, and demonstrating new technologies including gaining valuable real world data on how turbines withstand hurricanes,” she told the meeting.
“Scale is the second reason this meeting is important. In the past 12 months we have advanced state procurements of offshore wind from a few hundred megawatts to 2 GW. Not only do we have a growing pipeline we have a growing commitment of scale. There is ‘rush to scale’ along the East Coast.”
She cited a report released by BVG Associates shows that Virginia’s key decision makers can help position this state as a national leader in the growing US offshore wind industry during the next decade.
The report points to the Commonwealth’s unique infrastructure and geographical advantages as keys to developing 2 GW of offshore wind by 2028. The report came on the heels of recent legislation setting a state-wide goal of building 5 GW of renewable energy by 2028. At least 2GW of the 5GW needs to be carved out for offshore wind, she said.