- The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) granted two key approvals to Dominion Energy and Ørsted's 12 MW offshore wind pilot project in Virginia, the utility announced on Monday.
- "Our demonstration project is the first one to be permitted by BOEM," Dominion's vice president of generation construction Mark Mitchell told Utility Dive. "It's only two turbines but we felt it was a large help ... especially learning the process for the initial permits."
- The project is poised to be the second offshore wind farm in operation in the nation, and the first in federal waters. It's expected to be installed next summer, while a commercial-scale 2,600 MW project pursued by Dominion and Ørsted could begin installing turbines as soon as 2024.
Going through the process of BOEM certification for the 12 MW project will inform a lot of the filings for the commercial-scale effort, according to Mitchell.
"We essentially have all the key permits that we need to build" the pilot project, he said.
The 12 MW project needs some minor approvals, such as a certificate for how to deal with marine life that might wander into the area during construction.
Dominion can apply the same data for avian surveys, marine mammal surveys and others to the commercial-scale plan.
The pilot program is the only fully permitted project in federal waters, according to Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind CEO, Thomas Brostrøm. Ørsted is also learning from the experience, although Dominion had already been carrying out stakeholder engagement for the pilot by the time the developer came on as a partner for the project.
Mitchell also expects the transmission corridor will be largely the same as the cable route that comes back to shore for the pilot. Onshore construction began in June for interconnection of the pilot at a substation near a military facility.
BOEM determined no objections to Dominion's Facility Design Report and Fabrication and Installation Report for the pilot project off the coast of Virginia Beach. The permits outline the design of the components and the equipment's fabrication and installation plans.
The developers had already received BOEM approval for a research activity plan, or "the equivalent of a construction operations plan that Vineyard [Wind] is in the process of getting," Mitchell said.
Larger and larger offshore wind developments have been announced in recent months as East Coast states seek to increase the amount of renewable energy on their grid. Vineyard's plan to build the first large-scale offshore wind project in the U.S. has faced recent delays. BOEM extended its mandatory review of the 800 MW project off the coast of Massachusetts and announced plans to extend analysis for other large-scale developments.
"I look at what's going on with the Vineyard construction operations plan as the industry [is] growing through operational issues," he says. "In the Northeast, they have a lot of adjacent offshore wind farms," which create more considerations "in laying out wind turbine lease areas."
Dominion amended and re-issued the research activity plan for its pilot "within weeks" after the announcement of Vineyard's rejection. However, Mitchell said, "we have no concerns that there will be some retroactive requirement that will stop us from construction."
While offshore wind developers in the Northeast have multiple leasing areas to contend with, the region has seen encouraging agreements to build deep sea port infrastructure to support offshore wind development in Massachusetts and New Jersey. Such developments are not currently in the works in Virginia despite the large amount of turbines expected to be deployed in the next five years.
"You see certain pieces announced," such as staging components, Mitchell said, but U.S. manufacturing hasn't developed. "It will work its way out and I think that time is soon."
"As more projects get secured by [power purchase agreements]... you'll see that develop."