Va., neighbors should form regional offshore wind partnership — report

Source: David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019

Virginia’s governor made public last week a report calling for a multistate offshore wind collaborative that would aim to create a common industrial base in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

It’s the latest call for cooperation on offshore wind policy to emerge from the East Coast, where several states are angling for first-mover advantage as purveyors of turbine parts and industry labor. The idea is that each state ends up maximizing its strengths, if it coordinates with others.

A regional platform, the report said, could help Virginia and its neighbors recruit the kinds of “anchor” companies — like manufacturers of turbine foundations — that cause other suppliers to set up shop nearby. Those companies could get an edge over the competition for projects as far north as New York and New Jersey.

Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) has already initiated talks with Maryland and the Carolinas, according to the report, which was commissioned from consultancy BVG Associates and signed off on by several state agencies.

Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said those early steps would lend a boost to the state’s own offshore wind industry.

“Virginia has a clear opportunity to act as a leader in driving the development of the U.S. offshore wind industry,” he said in a statement.

Four Atlantic Coast projects currently proposed or in development could be serviced from Virginia, said the report, as well as four other wind areas.

It said Virginia envisioned a cluster “defined by states from the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast” but added that the state would seek to loop in additional members. Similar plans for collaboration are already in the works in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

It also recommended that Virginia create a state Office for Offshore Wind to manage and support regional business networks. And it listed steps the state should undertake to entice suppliers, like a special trade mission that would meet with leading European foundation fabricators.

“The intent is that Virginia secures a primary foundation manufacturer (similar to the philosophy of attracting [an] Amazon or Walmart),” it said. Operations would be located near Hampton Roads, seen as an especially auspicious port for its large maritime workforce, existing infrastructure and unrestricted access for ships hauling tall turbines.

The report’s publication came just a day before New Jersey closed a solicitation for 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind power. Two companies, Equinor and Ørsted, and a joint venture between Shell and EDF Renewables submitted bids, with a final decision from the state due in July.