By Stefanie Jackson – Dominion Energy has filed with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) its plan for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, the largest offshore wind farm in the U.S., according to a Dec. 18 press release.
“This is an important step in the process toward bringing commercial-scale offshore wind to the Commonwealth and shows Dominion Energy is committed to delivering the clean, renewable and reliable energy our customers expect from us,” said Dominion Energy Vice President of Offshore Wind Joshua Bennett.
Dominion Energy plans to install 188 offshore wind turbines about 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Construction in the 112,800-acre commercial lease area is scheduled to begin in 2024.
The offshore wind project is part of a goal for Dominion’s Virginia operations to be 100% carbon-free by 2045, as required by the Virginia Clean Economy Act, signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in April.
The wind turbines will generate more than 2,600 megawatts of electricity, enough to power up to 660,000 homes.
According to the press release, the CVOW project will create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of positive economic impact.
That includes approximately 900 jobs and $143 million in annual economic impact during construction and 1,100 jobs and $210 million in annual economic impact during operation.
The CVOW project is expected to generate annual local and state tax revenue of nearly $5 million during construction and $11 million during operation.
Dominion Energy filing a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) with BOEM is a required step that begins a two-year federal review process.
The purpose of the COP is to demonstrate that the offshore wind project is designed to protect “natural resources, the environment and human and wildlife health; uses the best available and safest technology, and does not unreasonably interfere with … commercial and recreational fishing, commercial shipping lanes and military training maneuvers.”
On the Eastern Shore, commercial fishermen whose work may be impacted by the operation of the wind turbines include Tangier watermen who catch conch and sea bass in the area.
Todd Janeski, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program ocean planning stakeholder engagement coordinator, is an advocate for the watermen’s concerns and has facilitated meetings between the watermen and Dominion Energy representatives.
He recently highlighted a memo from the U.S. Department of the Interior released Dec. 14, which contained an opinion favorable to the watermen.
Daniel Jorjani, solicitor of the Department of the Interior, wrote that determining an offshore wind project’s “unreasonable interference” with fishing activity should be based on the perspective of the fishermen.
For example, if a wind project causes the fishermen’s arrival at a fishing location to be delayed a couple minutes, that is “minimal interference.”
However, if the wind project completely prevents the fishermen from accessing the area, “the degree of interference would arise to the level of unreasonableness,” Jorjani wrote.
He also noted that the cumulative effects of interference should be considered.
“While one minimal interference by itself might not be unreasonable, the cumulative effect of multiple interferences” might be unreasonable “as a whole,” he added.
In other news impacting the offshore wind industry, the U.S. Senate passed the 2021 Defense Authorization Act, which states that all federal laws apply to installations for “exploring for, developing, or producing resources, including non-mineral energy resources” like offshore wind, Janeski noted.
If the 2021 Defense Authorization Act is signed into law, offshore wind farms will be required to comply with all federal laws, including the Jones Act, requiring most vessels operating on U.S. wind farms to be built and owned in the U.S.
An amendment to an earlier bill, the 2019 Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act, enforced the Jones Act for offshore renewable energy production. The amendment was named after Congressman John Garamendi, who introduced it.