Virginia Offshore Wind Power: Not Just Tilting at Windmills
RICHMOND, Va. - A huge wind project in the early stages off Virginia Beach has the potential to provide a lot of reasonably-priced, steady power, according to a new report.
"Catching the Wind," which looks at offshore wind turbine projects along the East Coast, reported that the Dominion project two dozen miles off the Virginia coast is one of the furthest along. The company is preparing to put up a few of the huge wind turbines on a small part of its ocean lease as a demonstration.
David Carr, general counsel for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the full project could supply 2,000 megawatts, enough to power 700,000 homes.
"The demonstration project is a good first step, but Dominion and the state need to develop a large, commercial-scale project," Carr said. "This project could replace the need for six or more large coal-fired power plants."
Numerous studies have found the Virginia coastline vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Chelsea Harnish, policy and campaign manager for the Virginia Conservation Network, said the people in the region have good reason to want a carbon-free source of electricity.
"Hampton Roads is second only to New Orleans in terms of vulnerability to sea-level rise," she said. "Certain times of the month, people in the cities down in that area need to park on certain areas of the street due to flooding."
Harnish aaid the project has the potential to create thousands of jobs for the area. Critics of wind power dismiss it as too costly and dependent on government subsidies, but the cost of wind and solar power has fallen dramatically in recent years.
Offshore projects may even be cheaper than current peak-rate supplies in some cases, according to the report. When the costs of climate change and the regulations for dealing with it are taken into account, Harnish added, alternative power sources are more than competitive.
"So, if you take that into account," she said, "offshore wind and solar and other true, clean renewables are a real solution to help combat climate change and to also help states meet those regulations."
Offshore wind farms have the advantage of steady winds, meaning steady power with no fuel costs. According to the study, the Atlantic coast areas now set aside for it could eventually power the equivalent of 5 million homes.
The report is online at NWF.org/OffshoreWind.