Op-Ed:Virginia has a massive energy source sitting just offshore

Source: By Katharine Kollins, Washington Post • Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018

Virginians are sitting on a massive economic opportunity — they just may need a little help getting to it.

In April, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, an Energy Department science lab associated with 13 Nobel prizes, published a report trying to quantify the value offshore wind would have provided to the East Coast from 2007 to 2016 had it been built. The study, “Estimating the Value of Offshore Wind Along the United States’ Eastern Coast,” combines the value of energy generated, capacity value and renewable-energy certificates to calculate the “market value” of offshore wind on many points along the East Coast.

The conclusion: Virginia offshore wind offers some of the highest value of anywhere along the East Coast.

Virginia is already moving toward offshore wind. Dominion Energy, which is a paying member of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, has been working on a small demonstration project that will provide valuable insights into overcoming the unique challenges of building offshore wind farms. Last year, Dominion announced a strategic partnership with Orsted Energy, which has built 25 percent of the world’s installed offshore wind. This partnership may lead to a second phase, which would generate enough clean electricity to power thousands of homes and businesses. Orsted’s experience and Dominion’s incremental approach should minimize the risks in bringing offshore wind to Virginia.

We’re continuing to see strong offshore wind progress in Europe, and those benefits will soon flow to our shores. For example, Orsted’s groundbreaking Hornsea Project Two in the North Sea off the coast of Yorkshire, England, recently won a bid with one of the lowest offshore wind prices seen to date. This breakthrough marks a continuing trend of falling prices for offshore wind projects in Europe. While the United States is behind Europe’s offshore wind market, as projects come online, we can expect a similar, if not more rapid, drop in price.

Virginians should be excited about this price drop because of the relocation of an offshore wind supply chain. With an increase in demand as more projects are proposed, companies will begin situating multimillion- ­dollar facilities in the United States to be closer to the demand, eliminating the need to ship components from Europe. That will decrease the cost of the projects and create thousands of U.S. jobs.

As Thomas Brostrom, Orsted North America’s president, recently pointed out, Virginia’s ports, workforce and business climate make the commonwealth an attractive option as the Southeast’s offshore wind manufacturing hub. Virginia would be well suited to host several of these manufacturing facilities.

Even more interestingly, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s analysis of the market value of offshore wind doesn’t include any economic development benefits offshore wind may bring with it, such as new manufacturing facilities. This means the value for Virginia is likely much higher when you consider the potential for new jobs, shipbuilding and commerce.

Massive economic benefits from offshore wind won’t be here tomorrow, but the work to bring the industry to Virginia starts today. We have already seen positive progress from the General Assembly this session with the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, which declared 5,000 megawatts of wind and solar are in the public interest. Virginia needs to continue this momentum by getting steel in the water and showing the industry a serious commitment to growth.

A massive economic resource sits off Virginia’s shores. To benefit tomorrow, Virginia needs to act today.

Katharine Kollins is president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, a nonprofit working to advance the wind industry