Change in the air
Dominion debuts offshore wind farm
After almost a decade of planning, Dominion Energy Inc. will begin harnessing offshore wind power this fall as two massive test turbines go into operation off the coast of Virginia Beach.
Standing about 600 feet tall, the 12-megawatt turbines are the cornerstone of Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) pilot project. The company, the first U.S. electric utility company to own an offshore wind farm, began construction on the $300 million project in June, with the turbines installed and tested this summer. At peak wind speeds, they will provide electricity to 3,000 homes.
Located 27 miles off the Virginia Beach coast, the turbines sit in 2,135 acres of federally owned waters leased to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME). It is the first offshore wind farm approved by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) and installed in federal waters, and the second to be built in the nation.
The turbines are expected to last 26 years and withstand severe storms, including hurricanes, says Mark Mitchell, Dominion’s vice president of generation construction. “We looked at every hurricane in the history of this area and calculated what could withstand the wind speed and waves consistent with a Category 5 hurricane.”
Dominion will use information gained from the development, installation and operation of the test turbines to build what is planned to be the largest wind farm in North America, erecting 180 to 190 turbines in 112,800 acres of federal waters adjacent to the test turbines. Scheduled to be built in three, 880-megawatt phases from 2024 to 2026, the $7.8 billion commercial project will be capable of generating 2,600 megawatts of zero-carbon electricity at peak wind speeds to power 650,000 homes.
While preparing the test turbines for service, the utility also is performing ocean surveys and geotechnical work to determine the pilot turbines’ impact on the ocean and sea life. Those surveys will help support development of construction and operations plans for the full-scale project, which will be submitted to BOEM later this year.
Offshore wind generation is a vital part of Dominion’s comprehensive clean energy strategy to meet standards outlined in the Virginia Clean Economy Act passed during the 2020 General Assembly session. The utility has also established an ambitious initiative to achieve net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions by 2050.
Dominion’s offshore wind energy plans dovetail with landmark legislation Gov. Ralph Northam signed this summer to position Virginia as a national leader in offshore wind development. The legislation establishes a target for Virginia to generate 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2034, ensuring projects demonstrate significant economic development for the state, while safeguarding healthy competition for the procurement of offshore wind projects that bring diverse companies to Virginia. Additionally, the bills create a pathway for project developers to recover expenses while minimizing costs to utility customers.
Northam also signed a bill creating Virginia’s first Office of Offshore Wind within the DMME. The new office will oversee state policies in support of offshore wind, work with stakeholders and coordinate economic development opportunities for the offshore wind industry.
Virginia has already made strides in promoting itself as a leader in offshore wind energy, says a representative for Ørsted Energy, the Denmark-based offshore wind development company partnering with Dominion on the pilot project. Earlier this year, Ørsted agreed to lease a portion of the Portsmouth Marine Terminal from the Virginia Port Authority to stage materials and equipment for Dominion’s project, as well as for its other East Coast offshore wind projects. Hayes Framme, Ørsted’s government relations and communications manager for the Southeast, praised the state’s legislative focus on offshore wind energy, noting that Virginia has shifted from “playing catchup to other states to having one of the most aggressive offshore wind policies in the entire country.”
Dominion also has selected Spanish company Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy S.A., a global market leader in offshore wind power, as its preferred supplier for the turbines. Siemens Gamesa is working with Dominion to evaluate supply chain development in Virginia for offshore wind as the state aims to become a national leader in the technology, management and deployment of offshore wind energy.