Injunction to Stop Wind Project Denied

A federal judge in Washington has declined to prevent Dominion Energy Virginia from constructing its offshore wind turbines, but presumably the underlying legal challenge to the federal permitting process will grind on through the court process. Virginia Mercury reports the basics this morning.

Installation of the first monopiles actually started while the judge was still pondering the petition for an injunction, but getting such an injunction before the actual trial process requires clearing a very high legal hurdle. The plaintiffs claim the project will cause irreversible harm to marine life in the area, including whales, but the truth is evidence either way is lacking.

You cannot tell from the carcass if a dead whale ended up on the beach because of noise from sonar mapping of this construction site, or construction work on previous projects elsewhere. Likewise those who claim the work won’t harm whales cannot prove that negative. The federal regulators actually are of the opinion there is risk but claim the mitigations they have imposed will prove sufficient.

Time will tell on that. What remains is the project’s inordinate cost for the likely energy output, especially if the claimed 25- to 30-year lifespan proves too optimistic, or the project suffers major damage in some future (and long overdue) mid-Atlantic monster hurricane. And Dominion’s project is pretty much the only one which still claims it will be built for the advertised cost, thanks to contracts locked in long ago. Costs are exploding for many other developers.

And the costs discussed publicly continue to ignore the energy elephant in the room, the intermittent nature of wind energy. No wind, no energy, and even off the coast there are times of no wind. That means very expensive back-up power, from huge battery complexes or gas-fired plants that run only when needed. A long wind drought will be crushing for Dominion energy customers.

We ratepayers are stuck with this, and if some unforeseen circumstance does halt the project, we ratepayers will be stuck with paying the sunk cost to date (not a pun). The focus should be on whether Dominion is allowed to build its planned second wave of monster turbines, and the answer to that should be a clear no. But follow the money and you reach a different outcome.


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20 responses to “Injunction to Stop Wind Project Denied”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    For those who say the “environmentalists” care only about wind/solar and not the whales… essentially one monolithic group are clearly wrong:

    ” Many forms of aquatic marine life have evolved to be highly dependent on sound because vision underwater is only useful for perceiving very short distances. Many forms of aquatic ocean life are only able to understand, perceive, or ‘image’ their environment using sound. The effects of sound on marine organisms is not receiving a proper examination. For most marine organisms, use of and response to sound is necessary for the execution of essential life processes. For some, vibration. The U.S. Offshore Wind program will make profound modifications to a very large portion of the ocean habitat on the outer continental shelf. The examination performed by BOEM and NOAA Fisheries has largely been focused on whether sounds expected to be generated by offshore wind activity are expected to be loud enough to cause permanent hearing losses. The scope so narrow that it will not be able to capture the environmental effects of this project that are reasonably likely to occur.”

    So these folks really do care about the whales and not just recently. They have a long history of it.

    re: ” …. the intermittent nature of wind energy. No wind, no energy, and even off the coast there are times of no wind. That means very expensive back-up power, from huge battery complexes or gas-fired plants that run only when needed. A long wind drought will be crushing for Dominion energy customers.”

    Totally true as far as it goes but no battery power is mandated because we already have existing power plants that can go 24/7 and the availability of wind/solar allows for substitution of cheaper power when they are available so those plants don’t need to continue to run 24/7 and we save money and energy when we can.

    Think of it like a hybrid auto. Use the battery when it’s available, switch to gas when it’s not – and overall – bet better mileage, lower fuel costs. We don’t characterize hybrid autos as having to have “expensive” backup power , we judge the package and it’s benefits.

    People also do exactly this at the individual house level. They “burn” solar when it is available and use grid power when it is not and in doing so, save money and pollute less. When enough people do this, the power company saves energy and money, especially when the grid is at peak demand and fossil fuels cost more on the spot market.

    IF build more wind/solar, we will save even more money and use even less polluting fuels over the longer run.

    With the advent of EVs and Data Centers, it’s the right way forward, IMO.

    We’re not going to replace all fossil fuel generation overnight, not even in our lifetimes.. just as we are not fixing the ozone holes right away either. It’s a longer term strategy that, aside from the Climate, will lead to less costly energy.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Again, you are ignoring the pressing political demands to retire that reliable back up power on the grid, as rapidly as possible — coal, gas, etc all going away. The utilities are screaming warnings, PJM is shouting from rooftops, but you naively believe the thermal generation will remain. Nope. And even those solar net meter customers scream like banshees when charged the full cost of maintaining their backup grid power.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        They’re not going to “retire” them until they can. It’s a goal – like cleaning up the bay or similar.

        Not even I would support taken plants offline that we need… it’s just boggeyman politics IMO.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Do you ever listen to the people you vote for? Ever?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Sure I do and I totally believe what Trump says but not the GOP when they say they “support” abortion restrictions. I do believe we are on the right track on wind/solar but I also do agree, the way we did
            it was more to Dominion’s advantage than ratepayers per the usual in Va.

            But we do have ample and long history of “goals” for reducing pollution not met 100% by the goal date, stricter gas mileage, TMDLs, ozone holes, etc… We set goals. We make progress towards them but we don’t do stupid things that harm us in a mindless pursuit some number, as often depicted by naysayers and anti folks.

            We have, over time, done great reductions in stuff like lead in paint and gasoline, mercury in coal burning, PCBs, and a litany of such things and this one will work the same way – with progress but likely not as much as the goal. When we get there, we reset and continue on. MOST people believe we should do this and progress toward the goals and using reason to not force mindless deadlines as “goals”. They know it’s going to be harder than any before but they do believe the science and the need to make changes. No self-professed climate denier will ever win Governor in Va.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Exciting! When can I start paying more for energy? Can’t wait!

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Next step up in the wind adder on your bill arrives soon.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Yep… so how much do I pay to heat/cool my home, keep my food cold, cook my food, wash and dry my dishes and clothes, and take long showers?

        20 cents an hour you say? WOW!

        and it’s TOO DANG HIGH? you say?

  3. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    Well if we snagged a good fire sale on cost, before inflation, that is good thing. Suspect that means some supplier companies are in trouble meeting the cost promise. The big question besides future construction is actual performance vs. wishful thinking…wishful thinking because of the super-large turbine size step-out is really not well proven at this point. School of hard knocks tells us scale-up is often a big issue.

  4. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    There is an apparent irony that Dems, much to the chagrin of Hampton Roads sea development interests, for years blocked oil and gas development, in part due to seismic damage to whales. Now they are much happier in Hampton Roads due to Dems being OK with ocean development as long as it not fossil fuels.

    Risk assessment by public is always in the eye of the beholder. If you feel you benefit, huge risk is acceptable; if you do not feel you benefit, then tiny risk is unacceptable.

      1. Randy Huffman Avatar
        Randy Huffman

        based on the headline, coastal Republicans, so NIMBY for constituents, right?

  5. I am not surprised that the TRO was denied as it would likely stop all offshore development and this Court is not high enough to do that. If they appeal SCOTUS might do it.

    Meanwhile the trial continues on the core issue of the Feds refusing to do a cumulative impact analysis for the entire Atlantic offshore program. The ESA is widely interpreted to require this so CFACT et al have a shot. Such an order might have significant impact.

    I have discussed the scope of such an assessment here:

    The fat lady ain't done sung.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    Why are so many other offshore wind projects (in other states) struggling?

    If (when?) Dominion declares that the cost of this project needs to rise and the schedule elongate … what happens if the state says, "no"? Who pays for the work done before the reestimate and cancellation?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      What I read is that they're struggling from the same problems of other infrastructure projects not related to wind. Supply chain and financing.

    2. The industry was hit by a 60% or so cost spike but DOM had locked in prespike prices, or so they say.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        If Dominion really did that, I'll give them a lot of credit.

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all.

    1. Happily the main case is still going.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Oh, 34 out of 34. I was wrong. You can win ‘em all.

        Cheer up. A hundred years ago, some environmentalists were fighting against coal fired power plants too. They’re definitely winning now.

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