Dominion’s Plan for Biggest U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Advances

The Biden administration moved Dominion Energy Inc.’s proposed 2.6-gigawatt wind farm off the Virginia coast one step closer to development Thursday by beginning a key environmental study on what would be the biggest offshore wind project in the U.S.

The Interior Department said it would draft an environmental impact statement on the $7.8 billion project, a critical early step in the permitting process. Dominion aims to begin providing power from that site about 27 miles (43 kilometers) off the Virginia coast by 2026.

“The demand for offshore wind energy has never been greater,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. Haaland, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Governor Ralph Northam highlighted the plan at an event Thursday in Norfolk.

The announcement comes among a flurry of recent Interior actions designed to help fulfill President Joe Biden’s goal of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the decade.

“Virginia is all in on offshore wind,” said Northam, also a Democrat. “We are developing the infrastructure, workforce, supply chain and manufacturing capabilities needed to capture the many benefits of this emerging industry.”

In June, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposed selling eight wind leases in a shallow stretch of Atlantic waters between New Jersey and New York’s Long Island. The agency also has sought input on potential wind development in the Gulf of Mexico and brokered an agreement that paves the way for an auction of leases off the California coast, despite years of conflict over military training exercises in the region.

Dominion and Denmark’s Orsted A/S, the biggest developer of offshore wind farms, operate the only such facility operating in Atlantic waters near Virginia. The 12-megawatt pilot project began delivering power to the grid last year.

By contrast, Dominion’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is slated to dwarf the earlier two-turbine pilot -- with more than 200 times the power generating capacity coming from up to 205 wind turbines.

“It’s the biggest offshore wind farm currently under development in America,” said Dominion representative Jeremy Slayton.

Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion is building a specialized ship to install the wind farm and, under charter, others like it. The ship will comply with the Jones Act that requires goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged, -crewed and -constructed vessels.

Dominion’s proposed Virginia wind farm is set to be the first in U.S. waters owned by an electric utility company. It also is now the sixth proposed offshore wind project under environmental scrutiny from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. More than a dozen offshore wind construction plans have been filed with the agency for developments along the U.S. East Coast.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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