Virginia legislation paves way for massive offshore wind expansion

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Image: Siemens Gamesa

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) into law over the weekend. The legislation, which passed in the state Senate and the House of Delegates in March, paves the way for an enormous expansion of offshore wind, solar, onshore wind, and energy storage.

The VCEA calls for 73 percent or more of the state’s electricity to come from clean energy by 2035, achieving the 100 percent goal by 2050.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Virginia generated only 7 percent of its electricity from renewable sources as of 2018. To drastically boost Virginia’s renewable energy production, initial milestones in the governor’s plan include generating 2,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2026, part of the overall 5.2 GW by 2034, as well as 3,000 MW of solar and land-based wind by 2022.

In fulfillment of the offshore wind portion, Dominion Energy is developing what could be the largest offshore wind project in the country. The $7.8 billion project would place 220 turbines 27 miles off Virginia Beach, producing enough electricity to power 650,000 homes. Dominion aims to bring the project online by 2026.

“Gov. Northam is boldly boosting offshore wind as a new source of clean energy and well-paying jobs for Virginia. Offshore wind is a key part of meeting the state’s goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050 – that is something to be applauded and I hope replicated in other states,” said Liz Burdock, president & CEO, Business Network for Offshore Wind, “Dominion Energy’s 2,640 MW utility-scale offshore wind project presents a uniquely vertically integrated framework not replicated anywhere else within the U.S. offshore wind market. Virginia and Dominion’s bold, utility-owned strategy to support and develop offshore wind positions the Commonwealth as a Mid-Atlantic hub for offshore wind.”

Signing into law of the VCEA, follows Virginia’s December 2019 announcement that its 2020 budget would include funding the state’s first Office of Offshore Wind and provide to $40 million to upgrade the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, in its 2020 budget to secure new investments in the offshore wind supply chain.

“While the world economy is frustratingly slowed down, U.S. offshore wind keeps moving,” said Burdock. “To date, states have now codified 29 GW of offshore wind in legislation, firmly establishing a U.S. market. The country will need these clean energy infrastructure projects to get our economy moving after the COVID-19 epidemic dissipates.”

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