Commentary

Hampton Roads is on its way to becoming a wind capital

July 7, 2021 12:01 am

One of two wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach that comprise Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. (Sarah Vogelsong/ Virginia Mercury)

By Katharine Kollins 

In the year since the enactment of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, Virginia has been on its way to achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, aided by a planned 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. As a testament to VCEA’s success, Virginia has become one of the national leaders in offshore wind, spurring economic development and workforce training programs across the state.

Virginia will forever claim the first offshore wind project in U.S. federal waters. The 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach is just the start of the commonwealth’s offshore wind industry. With a 188-turbine commercial project in the works, the state is already reaping the benefits of increased business interest for the state. Industry giant Siemens Gamesa is actively considering Hampton Roads for a $200 million blade facility, which would create around 750 jobs. These kinds of investments don’t happen by chance. Companies are looking for accessible ports and a steady demand for their products — both of which the commonwealth supplies.

The 5,200-MW of offshore wind under the VCEA ensures that more job prospects are on the horizon — with each gigawatt of wind development projected to result in 5,200 direct and indirect jobs annually. Thanks to thoughtful input in the VCEA, offshore wind developers, including Dominion, are prioritizing the hiring of veterans and individuals from disadvantaged communities.

To answer the call of thousands of new jobs, the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance, established by Gov. Ralph Northam in October 2020, provides courses and training for the next generation of the wind energy workforce. The alliance is comprised of New College Institute, Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy, and Centura College, all members of the team dedicated to offering a full suite of wind energy-specific training. The timing is just right, as according to Chmura Analytics, wind turbine service technician is Virginia’s top employment growth career for 2020 – 2025.

Even with these incredible figures, Virginia is only going up from here. It is estimated that during construction, $143 million will be output annually. When the project is online and in its operations and maintenance phase, it is estimated that it will generate $210 million in economic output each year for the life of the project. Each 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind development will result in $18 million in tax revenue.

The VCEA has created an outstanding opportunity to highlight a wide variety of diverse businesses to be a part of the advancement of offshore wind in the state. The CVOW project has connected vendors, subcontractors and suppliers across Virginia to commerce opportunities. In preparation for further industry collaboration and the offshore wind boom, the Hampton Roads Alliance recently opened a co-working space dedicated to the offshore wind and maritime industries to connect and innovate.

As development continues and more jobs and commerce opportunities are created, the commonwealth will reap the benefits. Onshore and offshore wind projects are creating new jobs, boosting local economies and powering our state with pollution-free energy. Thanks to the VCEA, Hampton Roads is well on its way to becoming a wind energy capital in the United States.

Katharine Kollins is president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition.

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