- Dominion Energy announced plans Thursday to develop 2.6 GW of wind capacity off the Virginia coast, making it the largest project yet proposed by the United States' nascent offshore wind industry.
- The plan includes more than 220 turbines located 27 miles off Virginia Beach in a 112,800-acre area Dominion leases from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The project would come online in three state jurisdictions, beginning in 2024.
- Dominion has filed an application with PJM Interconnection to connect the proposed turbines to the transmission grid. The utility says it is now ready to work with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D, "on next steps in public policy."
The United States' offshore wind industry had a relatively late start compared to Europe. But Dominion's announcement shows developers are scaling up and could signal even more development in the mid-Atlantic region.
Dominion's investment "really sends a signal that Virginia is serious," Sierra Club Offshore Energy Program Director Eileen Woll told Utility Dive. The company's commitment will kickstart development of a regional supply chain that, at full force, will employ up to 14,000 Virginians, she said.
"It's exciting. We need the projects in order the get the supply chain," Woll said. "So now we're able to couple that certainty, to really promote Virginia" to manufacturers that will support Dominion's project and potentially to other offshore developers.
The project will take years to develop and environmental groups are hoping to push policies in the 2020 state legislative session to grow the offshore wind industry, such as a carveout for the resource in a renewables mandate, said Woll.
"It's all about the certainty, and signaling this is real," said Woll.
Dominion's announcement came two days after Northam signed an executive order calling for Virginia to reach 100% carbon-free power by 2050 and 30% renewables by 2030.
Northam "has made it clear Virginia is committed to leading the way in offshore wind," Mark Mitchell, Dominion vice president of generation construction, said in a statement. "This filing with PJM shows how serious we are about bringing commercial-scale offshore wind to Virginia."
Dominion said it expects ocean survey work to begin in 2020, with a Construction and Operations Plan submitted to BOEM in 2022.
"Various approvals will be required by both federal and state regulators," a Dominion official told Utility Dive in an email. "Most environmental related approvals will fall on the federal side."
Dominion wants to bring the project online in three 880-MW phases, beginning in 2024 and expanding in 2025 and 2026.
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) said it sees the project's potential, but also called for caution.
"We believe Virginia can become a hub for offshore wind development across the eastern seaboard," SELC Senior Attorney Will Cleveland said in a statement. "[B]ut whenever a project is paid for by Virginians, it is imperative — regardless of fuel source — that we carefully scrutinize the project to ensure that unnecessary costs are not imposed in our transition to zero-carbon electricity."