OpEd: On Offshore Wind, Virginia Needs Deliberate Progress, Not Delays
Monday, July 29, 2019
David White's OpEd piece was published in the Daily Press and Virginian Pilot on July 27, 2019.
On July 9, the Daily Press Editorial Board smartly pointed out the exciting opportunity offshore wind presents the commonwealth of Virginia and that it “represents the future of clean energy here in Virginia.”
It also highlighted the importance of crafting a deliberate, thoughtful path forward to ensure the commonwealth maximizes economic benefits while mitigating potential impacts of bringing a new industry to the region. The good news is that much has already been accomplished, both through the development of the Coastal Virginia Offshore (CVOW) project and the defining of the commercial wind energy area, to ensure Virginia is moving forward responsibly. What Virginia cannot afford to do is sit back and wait to decide whether or not to go all-in on offshore wind.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball said it well at a CVOW event last year, “Offshore wind offers a number of benefits to Virginia, including providing valuable fuel diversity and serving as an important economic development opportunity. This demonstration project is the precursor to much larger development projects off our coast, which could bring thousands of supply chain and service industry jobs.”
While the CVOW project is only two turbines, significant gains have already accrued during the development of the project and more will be realized during construction and installation. These benefits have been and will continue to be used to make the full development more cost-effective for ratepayers.
First, The CVOW project is the first offshore wind project requiring permitting through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). With this experience, Ørsted and Dominion are now equipped to better respond to the needs and requirements of the federal permitting agencies — streamlining future permitting, reducing project risks, and directly reducing costs.
Second, the lessons learned from constructing these nearly 600-foot-tall assets at depths close to 90 feet. and 24 nautical miles offshore will yield important lessons that will be quickly applied to larger projects. Lessons learned from the experience of crew transport and weather modeling and tracking during the first installation in U.S. federal waters are just two examples that can directly impact future project execution costs.
As for the importance of this new industry fitting into an existing maritime economy, the Navy, Coast Guard and Virginia Maritime Association were among the 120 stakeholders that participated in BOEM’s nearly two-year process to establish the location and create a 113,000-acre Virginia wind energy area that will be compatible with existing industries, while producing enough clean energy to power at least 500,000 homes.
The offshore wind industry is moving quickly along the East Coast. Virginia has assets and capabilities that position us well to participate in the construction and on-going operations and maintenance of wind farms up and down the Atlantic Coast. An analysis by E2, a national nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors and professionals from every sector of the economy, found that the offshore wind industry could provide an additional 4,300 jobs and $640 million in economic benefits to Virginia.
While we should be proud the CVOW project will place the first turbines in U.S. federal waters, we must recognize that states to both our north and south are more aggressively taking action to recruit this new industry and benefit from the new business activities and jobs that might otherwise come to Virginia. States such as Maryland are setting clear and robust timelines for the deployment of offshore wind to bring the industry to its borders. And North Carolina is catching up quickly by proposing a comprehensive analysis of assets that could attract and supply the industry.
Virginia cannot afford to sit on its hands watching its two turbines spin before moving forward on the full development of Virginia’s wind energy area. Amongst this competition, if Virginia stands still then we will fall behind.
Virginia must act deliberately, but with a sense of urgency to responsibly develop and cultivate the offshore wind industry and capture its economic development potential. We can do that. Virginia should continue to move purposely forward in advancing offshore wind to reap the full clean energy, economic, and employment benefits of such a tremendous opportunity.