Dominion Energy looks to offshore wind to power Virginia’s future

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Twenty-seven miles off the coast of Virginia, Dominion Energy is preparing for the future of electricity generation.

Dominion, one of the largest producers of electricity in the southeastern U.S., is constructing 180 wind turbines deep out in the Atlantic Ocean. When operational in 2026, Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project will produce upwards of 3,000 megawatts of electricity per day.

“This is one of the first projects of its kind,” said G.T. Hollet, who is supervising the project for Dominion.

The turbines, which at 800 feet high rise taller than the Washington Monument, are the first installed in federal waters. When completed, the 180 turbines will span an area of 85,000 football fields — nearly the same size as the city of Tampa, Florida. At their peak output, the turbines will produce enough electricity to power 666,000 homes.

Dominion estimates the project will avoid adding up to 5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.

“When up and running, the turbines will provide electricity roughly equal to that used by 25% of our customer base,” said John Larson, the director of public policy and economic development at Dominion.

Not only is the project green, but it will be one of the largest job generators in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region. Overall, economic agencies estimate the project will create 1,100 “direct and indirect jobs.”

“Each wind turbine is like a mini-power plant,” Mr. Larson said. “There’s a lot of complexity that goes into its installation and operation.”

The project, which is awaiting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, is likely to be a multibillion-dollar endeavor. The two pilot wind turbines Dominion currently had set up cost as much as $300 million.

Dominion’s investment in wind power dovetails with President Biden’s pledge to lower greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% by 2030. To meet the goal, the White House is specifically targeting utility companies.

Mr. Biden has proposed a 100% carbon-free electricity mandate by 2035. The policy explicitly targets the coal and natural gas industries, which produce 63% of all electricity consumed in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration.

The shift could prove momentous given that electricity generation makes up 25% of all U.S. emissions.

“We need to tell the utility world, our power system, where they need to go,” Gina McCarthy, the White House’s national climate adviser, said recently.  

Proponents and critics alike say a substantial cut in the electricity sector is onerous given where utilities are going on their own.

Producers already have shifted toward natural gas, which generates fewer emissions than coal, and are significantly curbing their reliance on fossil fuels. In 2020, more than 39% of all U.S. electricity was generated from carbon-free sources such as nuclear power and hydroelectricity.

“The company has a net-zero commitment, we’re very much aligned with where federal policy looks like it might go,” Mr. Larson said.

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