Virginia Gets Opportunity To Explore Offshore Wind Energy With New Partnership

The United States is still dipping their toes in offshore wind energy. An island off the coast of Rhode Island is the only place that’s installed a commercial farm system. That doesn’t mean various places are not interested. Along with multiple places in the Northeast and in California that are at least working on plans to construct them, Virginia could be joining the pack soon.

Dominion Energy, a utility company in the state, is partnering with Dong Energy to build two offshore wind turbines to test the features out. Dong Energy has constructed more offshore wind farms than any other company, and their capacity will jump up to 6.5 gigawatts worldwide by 2020. Most of the company's work is found in Europe and their headquarters are located in Denmark.

Named the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project, Dominion is going to build these turbines 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Each turbine will have a capacity of six megawatts, and if testing is successful, they'll be able to bring in over two gigawatts of renewable energy in the future. The partnership with Dong Energy will put them on the right path to accomplish just that.

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe made a statement in a press release shortly after both companies agreed to work with each other: "Today marks the first step in what I expect to be the deployment of hundreds of wind turbines off Virginia's coast that will further diversify our energy production portfolio, create thousands of jobs, and reduce carbon emissions in the Commonwealth.”

Dominion Energy

Samuel Leupold, Dong Energy’s executive vice president, also added that they’re happy to jumpstart offshore wind energy in America. "This project will provide us vital experience in constructing an offshore wind project in the United States and serve as a stepping stone to a larger commercial-scale partnership between our companies in the future," he said.

While the partnership gives the state of Virginia an exciting renewable energy opportunity, construction isn’t expected to be completed until 2020. Once finished, the project will be evaluated over a long period of time. Dominion Energy’s communications director, David Botkins, said in a report from Ars Technica, that they’ll be monitoring how they hold up during high winds and looking at “marine and aquatic life impact, water currents,” and more.

Since offshore wind farm construction is still very expensive, Dominion’s customers will feel that effect as the company needs to foot the entire $300 million bill for the project. With no federal funding after the Department of Energy pulled a $40 million grant, costs will likely be passed onto rate hikes. It was taken off the table after Dominion couldn’t guarantee the project would be completed by 2020.

If these turbines pass testing, those initial expenses would be worth it in the long term. Offshore wind farms can hold bigger turbines, generating more energy and taking advantage of more wind than land-based farms. They can also meet higher requirements in coastal areas around the country.

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