Talking Turbines: An update on Dominion Energy's offshore wind project

Posted at 8:15 AM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 09:14:42-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia's coast is getting some new residents; not fish or marine life, but massive windmills.

You can't see the turbines from the beaches, but Dominion Energy's offshore wind farm is paving the way for clean, renewable energy in Hampton Roads.

News 3's Erin Miller took to the waves and traveled 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach to see the turbines up close.

"It's pretty fascinating when you look at these two turbines," said John Larsen, the director of public policy and economic development for Dominion Energy. "[When I look at them] I see over a decade of work to get to the point where we [installed] these two turbines."

Larsen said the two turbines off the coast are the first to be installed in federal waters. Their success is paving the way for 176 more.

To add perspective on just how massive the turbines are -- when the blade is fully extended, it's 600 feet tall, which is larger than the Washington Monument. The new turbines will be even bigger at 800 feet tall, standing almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower.

The project, currently under development, will cover 176 square miles, which is equivalent to two-and-a-half Washington D.C.'s.

The turbines are said to generate enough clean energy to power 660,000 homes.

"Seeing renewable energy make that step from just being on the drawing board to actually being out here generating energy is just a tremendous step forward," Larsen said.

A tremendous step forward, he said, not just for offshore wind but for local jobs and the economy. Larsen said during construction about 900 jobs will be added.

"The majority of the jobs will be onshore, not necessarily offshore, and many of them are the traditional types of roles or skills that you may think of: electricians, machinist, hydraulics, welders, people that do painting and coding. Think about the environment these are in, you're gonna have to touch up the coatings that are on these turbine, so there are a pretty wide array [of options]," said Larsen.

In 2026 when the turbines are built and in maintenance mode, Dominion reports there will be 1,100 jobs and $210 million added to the economy.

When asked why this specific area was selected for the offshore wind project, Marine Affairs Manager Jerry Barnes said, "The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management under the Department of Interior identified this lease area as an area suitable for offshore wind, and de-conflicting DoD operations, commercial fishing operations, recreational activities. Based on that prime site location, they held an auction and 2013 and Dominion Energy won the right to lease and construct in this area."

Those involved with the project said their eyes are on everything from money to marine life and the environment.

"We have done numerous environmental studies, we've mapped the seafloor, we've taken core samples of the locations," said Jerry Barnes, Marine Affairs Manager. "We're seeing flounder, mahi-mahi, black sea bass, starfish, greater amberjack; all these fish that are the attracted to the structure, and it's going to be a real boon for the recreational fishermen."

A boom that Barnes said will be felt across the state as Virginia paves the way for clean, renewable energy.

However with a project of this size, costing $9.8 billion, there's opposition. Several state regulators and agencies still need to sign off on the next phase.

Just recently, the Office of the Virginia Attorney General has told state regulators that Dominion Energy has overstated the economic benefits of a proposed offshore wind farm, warning of “significant risks” to customers from the costly project.

Hearings in the case are scheduled for May and public comment is open.