Category Archives: Energy

New Offshore Wind Power Project Proposed to Come Ashore in a Virginia Beach Flood Zone

by James C. Sherlock

There is a dominant engineering problem in bringing offshore wind-generated electricity ashore in Virginia Beach. Flooding and water tables very close to the surface are the twin reasons there are few basements in Virginia Beach. And those that have them regret it.

The 2020 Virginia Beach FEMA Flood Hazard Map is 56MB. It is too big to display here. So don’t try downloading it on a phone. But take a look. It is important to the discussion.

Camp Pendleton and Sandbridge are Virginia Beach shore landing spots proposed for offshore wind electricity generated by two different fields. Both will have similar infrastructure pictured below.


Below is the SCC-approved transmission line route from Camp Pendleton for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project. The map does not show flood hazard zones.

I am not sure any public version of it ever did. Continue reading

Is Dominion Campaigning Behind a Front Again?

By Steve Haner

An electric power industry lobbying and public relations group which has been financially supported by Dominion Energy Virginia is mailing out flyers to voters praising legislative incumbents who helped Dominion pass favorable legislation this year.

A mailer supporting incumbent Fairfax Democratic Senator George Barker caused the Democrat blog Blue Virginia to respond with anger Friday. What appeared to be the same message appeared in mailboxes in the district of Henrico Republican Senator Siobhan Dunnavant. How many other incumbents received the mailer may not be known until the group reports its campaign spending.

If it actually does report the mailers as campaign donations.  Barker is in a very contested party primary June 20, but Dunnavant is not on the ballot until November. The mailer merely “thanks” them for “delivering energy savings for Virginia.” Votes are not directly solicited.

If anybody has received the mailer in support of a Virginia legislator who did not seek a new term, please note that in the comment section. Odds are only legislators seeking new terms got the flyer, one more sign it’s basically a campaign donation, not a legitimate “thank you.”

The group is called Power for Tomorrow and is based in Arlington. The Energy and Policy Institute, a non-profit that often clashes with the utilities over policy, notes that a donation of about $800,000 to Power for Tomorrow appears on a 2021 Dominion disclosure form. A few years back Power for Tomorrow apparently sent out mail in Virginia focused on energy regulation issues, but without using the names or photographs of individual candidates. That drew fire from Ivy Main of the Sierra Club, also reported in 2021 on Blue Virginia. Continue reading

First Lawsuit Over Whales and Wind Dismissed

Vineyard Wind 1, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

A federal district judge in Massachusetts has rejected an effort to stop an offshore wind project near Nantucket Island on the basis of danger to whales, apparently the first court test of similar claims being raised against wind turbine proposals along the U.S. eastern seaboard, including here in Virginia.

On May 17, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani granted a motion for summary judgement to the federal agency that approved the Vineyard Wind One project. With a planned 84 turbines, the project is about half the size of Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned project off Virginia Beach. Both are just the first phases of larger planned buildouts.

Plaintiffs, mainly a group of residents of the islands near the project, had also cross-filed for summary judgement and that motion was denied. Other court challenges to the project, including one brought by fishing industry interests claiming potential economic harm, are pending, but work on the project has not stopped.  Major turbine components are starting to arrive for work to begin. Continue reading

The Folly of Electrification

by Bill O’Keefe

Although Dominion Energy seems to be hedging on its 2040 goal, Virginia is still stuck with the Virginia Clean Economy Act net zero mandate and its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which seeks to achieve an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. However, neither the General Assembly nor Dominion appear to have done the comprehensive and realistic life-cycle analysis needed to determine the realism of those commitments and their consequences.

Noted e historian and analyst Daniel Yergin has written about the challenges of meeting the demand for the essential materials needed for electrification — lithium, copper, and other minerals. As time moves on, it is becoming more clear how difficult it will be to obtain these minerals and also constrain the emissions  associated with their production. The IMF has concluded that pursuing net zero will “spur an unprecedented demand for some of the most crucial metals, leading to price spikes that could derail or delay the energy transition.”

Electrification of vehicles, charging stations, wind power, solar panels, and battery storage could lead to a doubling of demand for copper within a decade. This conclusion comes from a study of copper by S&P Global. Since copper is the “metal of electrification,” the implications are staggering.  

For decades, the world worried about the concentration of oil in the Middle East. Are any of the electrification proponents worried about the greater concentration of copper supplies — 40% from Peru and Chile? And, what about the concentration of other essential minerals like cobalt and lithium for electric car batteries — 70% in the Congo and 60% in China? Diversifying the sources of these minerals is not an easy task. Negotiating with host governments and developing a new mine can take 15 to 20 years and cost several billions of dollars. How many new mines will be needed and how accommodating will host governments be? Continue reading

Dominion Seeks Permit to Harass 100s of Whales

Click for larger view. BOEM map of Right Whale density noting offshore wind lease areas. Dominion’s CVOW and Avangrid’s Kitty Hawk Wind are the southernmost mapped.

By David Wojick

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking public comments on a massive proposal to harass large numbers of whales and other marine mammals off Virginia by building a huge offshore wind complex. There is supposed to be an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed harassment, but it is not there with the proposal.

We are told it is elsewhere, but after searching we find that it simply does not exist. Like a shell game where the pea has been palmed, there is nothing to be found.

First, the bureaucratic background. The wind project is Dominion Energy Virginia’s 176-turbine offshore Virginia facility, which if built would be the world’s biggest to date. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to issue a five-year harassment authorization for the construction of this monster. This is about an enormous amount of pile driving, not just a sonar site survey, although there is more of that too.

Technically this is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Here is the announcement:

NMFS has received a request from the Virginia Electric and Power Company, doing business as Dominion Energy Virginia (Dominion Energy), for Incidental Take Regulations (ITR) and an associated Letter of Authorization (LOA) pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

There is a handy comment button at the beginning, with the comment period ending June 5. I urge people to comment, especially along the lines discussed below. Continue reading

Renewables? Fossil Fuels? Americans Want Both.

by Steve Haner

Given a choice between an energy future that is dependent on a) generation using sun, wind or falling water; or b) thermal generation sources using fossil fuels or uranium; or c) a combination of both, which do Americans prefer? Should it surprise anybody that the answer is both?

Reliance on both, the need for at least a substantial amount of electricity not depending on weather, is at the heart of the recommendations coming at Virginians from many directions. It came recently from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including the Virginian on that panel, Mark Christie. It is the premise for both Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s (R) 2022 Energy Plan and Dominion Energy Virginia’s new integrated resource plan.

The message is being disputed by advocates for the rapid retirement of existing coal and natural gas generation, many of whom are (sadly) also strongly anti-nuclear. But a recent poll shared with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy indicates the message of maintaining traditional baseload strongly resonates. It does so across party lines.

The American people are receptive to the message because they already believe that fossil fuels will continue to be around, and surprising percentages of them would like to see their use expanded. The number of Americans dubious of reaching the poorly defined target of “net zero” by 2050 – a shibboleth among Democrats — is higher than the percentage who believe it possible.

A recent poll by Hearts + Minds Strategies of Reston, with the Thomas Jefferson Institute an invited listener to the discussion (watch it in full or read a summary here), underscores this assertion. This was not a confab of climate catastrophe skeptics. Quite the opposite. Continue reading

Christie Using FERC Pulpit for Dire Prophecy

FERC Commissioner Mark Christie

by Steve Haner

Virginian Mark Christie is using his position on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a national pulpit to preach a message of energy reliability doom, and he is being heard.

It helps that he is not alone in spreading the alarm. It also helps that he is basing his warning on actual instances of energy shortages, from Texas’s deadly experience two years ago to the problems in the eastern United States just before Christmas 2022, which merely came close to catastrophe.

“The United States is heading for a very catastrophic situation in terms of reliability,” Christie told a United States Senate hearing May 4. “The arithmetic doesn’t work…. This problem is coming. It’s coming quickly. The red lights are flashing.”

Christie joined the FERC panel in January 2021, after 17 years as a member (and often chairman) of Virginia’s energy regulator, the State Corporation Commission. Prior to that he had a career as a lawyer, lobbyist and then advisor to Governor George Allen (R) and Virginia’s Republican state legislators. Continue reading

CVOW on Schedule and Budget, Utility Reports

Dominion’s proposed offshore wind project.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s first wave of offshore wind remains on schedule, and within the announced capital cost of $9.8 billion; and the cost per unit of the energy from the turbines will be lower than initially projected, the utility reported last week.

Details? Well, many of those are secrets. Much of the brief report the utility filed with State Corporation Commission remains redacted, with large blocks covered by black ink. The redacted data involves reports from an affiliate corporation, Blue Ocean Energy Marine LLC. There apparently is also another document “filed under seal under separate cover.”

Finally, Dominion refers to an Excel file that includes all the data on the new levelized cost of energy (LCOE) calculations which was posted to a shared eRoom. The password is available only to the SCC and case parties who signed non-disclosure agreements, reports the SCC’s communications director in response to a query about access for Bacon’s Rebellion.

Among the interesting items which are on the record: Continue reading

Hearing Held, No Vote Taken on Beach Wind Cables

Joe Bourne of Protect Sandbridge Beach opens the May 4 hearing on the Kitty Hawk North request to bring major power lines ashore in Virginia Beach.

by Steve Haner

One four-hour public hearing was not enough. Virginia Beach City Council wants another such debate before it votes on a wind company’s request to bring power cables ashore at Sandbridge Beach.

Last week’s hearing on Kitty Hawk North’s application for an easement to bury cables apparently was not covered by any Hampton Roads news media. Almost half of the time (watch it here) was used by the company’s speakers, both before and after the public spoke. Parent firm Avangrid Renewables LLC personnel were at the podium for so long because of questions from council members.

The representative for that part of the city, Barbara Henley, was the most pointed.

“We’ve heard a lot tonight from Avangrid, but in all this time, this is the first time we’ve heard it,” she complained.  “I think we all deserve answers to all of the questions before we make a decision.” Information she’d heard that evening seemed to contradict previous things she was told by city staff, she claimed. She also said city staff at one point told her of the project: “It’s not going to be viable. Don’t worry about it.”

Henley said the Sandbridge residents have been “shortchanged” so far, and also worried that nobody in the room spoke for the residents along the nine-mile route the power cables will take before connecting to the main electric grid at Corporate Landing.

Her comment came right before the meeting ended. She did not indicate how she might vote and included in her comments general support for offshore wind and the economic dream of creating a wind energy industry hub in the region. “None of that depends on where this project lands,” she said.

She was followed by Mayor Robert “Bobby” Dyer, who announced the intention for council to host another hearing “but not have a vote that night.” No date was announced. Continue reading

Combining RACs in Base Rates May Be “Bill Relief”

by Steve Haner

Simpler is usually better.  Monthly electric bills for many Virginians are about to get less complex, and in the short run also lower.  Will that lower cost be long term?  It is too soon to tell.

On July 1 Dominion Virginia Power will stop collecting separate monthly payments on its bills for three of its newer power plants, all now covered by their own stand-alone rate adjustment clauses or RACs.  This change flows from the major regulatory revision the General Assembly recently adopted and does not need State Corporation Commission approval.  Dominion instead notified the SCC of this change.

This is a different filing than the one about collecting its unpredicted fuel costs, and while they were announced together on May 1, really needed its own analysis. Continue reading

Nuclear Power “Essential” – Gates and Granholm

By James C. Sherlock

Bill Gates and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm demonstrated and published a joint position on nuclear energy nearly two years ago:

“Nuclear power is the only carbon-free energy source we have that can deliver power day and night throughout any season, almost anywhere on earth. And it’s been proven to work at a large scale,” said Bill Gates, founder and chairman of TerraPower and noted philanthropist, during his remarks at this year’s Nuclear Energy Assembly (NEA).

In a clean energy system, wind and solar will play important roles as renewable resources, but they will need support from reliable, carbon-free electricity. Nuclear energy, which accounts for over half of our carbon-free energy, is poised to be a critical part of decarbonization efforts.

“It’s hard to imagine a future where we can decarbonize our power grid affordably without using more nuclear power,” Gates said.


Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm emphasized the Biden administration’s commitment to investing in nuclear energy when she spoke at NEA.

“Between DOE’s historic budget request and the massive investments in the American Jobs Plan, this administration is going to be able to launch more nuclear energy projects across the country,” said Granholm.

“It’s going to be able to bring the benefits of clean sources of electricity and the high-quality jobs they’ll create to more communities. It will move mountains in our pursuit of President Biden’s bold climate and clean energy jobs agenda.”

“These next few years offer a can’t-miss opportunity to harness nuclear’s full potential,” said Granholm.

Policymakers recognize the need to expand and innovate, as it becomes clear that we need more nuclear power to fight climate change. And in turn, new nuclear sites and projects expand opportunities for steady, high-paying jobs for skilled workers.

Governor Youngkin agrees wholeheartedly.

Continue reading

Good Questions About Nuclear Power Answered

by James C. Sherlock

Surrey Power Station Unit 1. Courtesy Dominion Energy

A reader asked two excellent questions:

The issues with nuclear power have been:

1. The waste generated remains radioactive and dangerous for a very long time.
2. In the case of failure, a huge risk is exposed as was the case in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukishima.

Do these new, small reactors bypass either of those risks?

The short answers are:

  • The new large reactors for sale now are safer than those in the field.
  • New small reactors offer to greatly improve both the safety and efficiency of even the latest versions of the large reactors with a vastly smaller footprint. That includes Westinghouse’s new small reactor announced today that uses technology already approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). It expects deployment in 2027.
  • The designs of the small modular reactors (SMRs) in development under dual Department of Energy (DOE) and corporate sponsorship incorporate more revolutionary safety design features than any the designs already approved by the NRC for operational use. You will read below that the DOE has identified three revolutionary commercial vendor-backed SMR designs that it expects to be ready for NRC operating approval by 2030.
  • Some of the new SMRs actually consume nuclear waste from other sources.

Now for the longer version. Continue reading

Westinghouse Joins the Small Nuclear Reactor Market

by James C. Sherlock

Westinghouse, whose flagship AP1000 nuclear reactor is the American entry into the international market for large nuclear power plants, today announced a new reactor, called the AP300, which it claims will be available in 2027.

It will generate about a third of the power of the AP1000 reactor.

It is targeted at about $1 billion per delivered plant, well below the $6 billion plus for an AP1000 plant.

All of the technologies are already licensed by the NRC.

Clean Virginia’s Views on Small Modular (Nuclear) Reactors

By James C. Sherlock

VOYGR™ SMR plants powered by NuScale Power Module™, the first and only small modular reactor (SMR) to receive design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

I wrote in an earlier article that I had reached out to Clean Virginia on its policy on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and had not received a response.

Laura Gonzalez Guerrero, Clean Virginia’s energy policy lead, has been kind enough to contact me with that answer.  She was out of the office on April 25th when I inquired.

Ms. Guerrero’s response today:

“Clean Virginia recognizes SMRs as a nascent technology that has neither been fully tested nor proven to be cost-competitive.

Thus, it is our view that this technology warrants further study by the state.

Specifically, we hope state agencies lead a process with stakeholder input to understand and research SMRs and other technologies like hydrogen to determine their viability and the pathways to deploy these technologies in the safest and most cost-effective way possible.”

I fully expect that Clean Virginia, understanding that the Commonwealth has no equivalent state government expertise in next generation nuclear power, will also consider the decisions of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

I sincerely thank Ms. Guerrero for her response.

Generation IV and V Technology Offer to Make Opposition to Nuclear Power a Historical Artifact

Courtesy Terrestrial Energy Inc.

by James C. Sherlock

We write here often about electric power in Virginia, but usually related to public utilities. We focus on Dominion and Appalachian Power.

There is another big market: industrial power plants independent of utilities and the grid (and thus not requiring State Corporation Commission approval).

Those are not reflected in the plans of the utilities except inasmuch as they lower demand.

Users include the steel and cement industries, oil and gas, pulp and paper, mining, and chemical industries. And military bases.

The United States Navy is the world’s most advanced operational user of nuclear power and thus has both a culture and a corporate structure to support nuclear energy.

Each of the military services needs to maintain the independence of its major bases from utilities to control costs, to ensure reliability by independence from the grid and thus to support uninterrupted operations.

But even the Navy does not currently use nuclear power to provide co-generation of the steam and electricity needs of its shore infrastructure.

Among the technical reasons industrial power plants are conventionally powered:

  1. low-heat commercial nuclear reactors are not capable of efficient co-generation; and
  2. high-heat newer technology reactors shorten the life span of the graphite in the cores.

Molten Salt Reactors (MSR), a Generation IV nuclear technology system, were pioneered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory starting in 1968.

An advanced co-generation MSR targeted for commercial deployment in 2030 just achieved a major milestone in Canada.

It offers clean co-generation. Continue reading