By Stefanie Jackson – Gov. Ralph Northam has signed an executive order that sets a goal for Virginia to be powered with 100% clean energy by 2050, according to a Sept. 17 press release.
“Since I took office, our administration has been focused on establishing a strong and bold vision for Virginia as we work to modernize our electric grid and reduce barriers to the development of clean energy resources,” he said.
Northam wants 30% of Virginia’s electricity provided by renewable energy sources by 2030, and 100% of its electricity provided by carbon-free sources, including solar, wind, and nuclear power, by 2050.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as of 2017, Virginia can supply more than 27,000 megawatts of electricity during summer peak demand.
The first step toward Virginia’s clean-energy goal will be taken by 2022, developing plans to produce at least 3,000 megawatts of solar and onshore wind power. By 2026, plans will be developed to supply up to 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind power.
Dominion Energy, which provides electricity to 2.5 million customers in Virginia and North Carolina, will play a major role in the development of offshore wind power.
In a Dominion Energy document published just two days after Northam’s press release, the power company announced it will begin the largest offshore wind project in the U.S.
More than 220 wind turbines off the Virginia coast will produce more than 2,600 megawatts of electricity by 2026, powering up to 650,000 homes during peak demand.
The project will further Dominion Energy’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions by 55% by 2030.
As Dominion Energy moves forward with its offshore wind project, it “shows how serious we are about bringing commercial-scale offshore wind to Virginia, giving our customers what they asked for – more renewable energy,” said Mark Mitchell, the company’s vice president of generation construction.
Dominion Energy is investing in solar and wind energy, as well as batteries and other methods of energy storage, since sunny and windy conditions are not constant. The company will round out its energy portfolio with carbon-free nuclear power and low-carbon natural gas.
According to EIA data, Virginia is generating about 60% of its electricity from natural gas, less than 30% from nuclear power, and roughly 5% from coal, with hydroelectric power and other types of renewable energy filling in the gaps.
Dominion Energy has submitted an application for its offshore wind project to PJM Interconnection, the company that manages the high-voltage electricity grid that serves 65 million people in Washington, D.C., and 13 states that include Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
If approved, the offshore wind project will be located not far from the Eastern Shore – 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach on 112,800 acres, or about 175 square miles, leased from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
A news report published Sept. 24 on the Connect commercial real estate website suggested that the 90-acre, former site of Bayshore Concrete in Cape Charles is one of many waterfront properties supporting offshore wind.
Dominion Energy’s 2,600-megawatt offshore wind project will be built out in three phases, 880 megawatts each.
Its 12-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, under construction since June, is the first wind energy project to be fully permitted in U.S. federal waters.
“Virginia is already feeling the impacts of global warming in the form of rising sea levels, increased flooding, and more extreme weather events,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler.
“The public health, public safety, and economic consequences of climate change are undeniable, and this executive order is a necessary piece of our strategy to reduce carbon pollution and related emissions and improve quality of life for all Virginians,” he said.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball and Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy will assist stakeholders in developing an energy workforce plan that will fill jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors by linking education and training with career opportunities in those fields.