Residents Ask VA Beach to Reject Wind Easement

Source: John Locke Foundation. Click to expand.

By Steve Haner

Opposition to offshore wind is stirring in Virginia Beach, but the focus is on a North Carolina proposal that would bring its power ashore at Sandbridge Beach, not the Dominion Energy Virginia project which is closer to the state’s largest city.

Private energy developer Avangrid Renewables LLC still needs a key easement from Virginia Beach City Council to proceed with its plans.  That vote was delayed earlier this year and the company was asked to increase its local outreach and engagement.  A public meeting which is part of that effort will take place Thursday, May 4 at Municipal Center Building 1.

An information session will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a public hearing at 6:30 p.m.  Representatives of the company will be present to address questions and concerns about the Kitty Hawk Wind (KHW) proposal, which is not as far along in the review process as Dominion’s larger Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind.

No purchase agreement for the project’s power output has been announced, for example.  Unless it has turned up recently, no application has been filed with Virginia’s State Corporation Commission.  There is a construction and operations plan filed last September with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management which describes up to 69 turbines of up to 1,042 feet in height.

Click to expand. The Kitty Hawk North portion the lease area is shaded, and the cable corridor to Sandbridge Beach marked.

The Protect Sandbridge Beach Coalition plans to be at the hearing and is actively recruiting local members, with a petition and membership portal on its website.  Its leadership recently reached out to coordinate with a national umbrella group, American Coalition for Ocean Protection, which includes the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy among its affiliates.  ACOP has filed comments on various proposals and is advising plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the first of the large Biden Administration-blessed projects, Vineyard Wind off Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

The flyer Protect Sandbridge Beach Coalition is circulating to drum up attendance next week cites a number of concerns among its bullet points, starting with the years-long disruption to tourism activity the transmission construction project would create.  It cites: “No net benefit to the most impacted communities, only risk of impacting property values, tax revenues, rate increases and tourism. What are the unknown unintended consequences to our vital beach nourishment program and the environment?”

Beyond the specific Sandbridge local impact, Sandbridge resident Joe Bourne says the group’s members are expressing “a general concern about the pace of offshore wind development.”  Bourne is a retired DuPont executive who often spent time in Scotland, and his impression is the wind projects in the North Sea have not lived up to their promises.

He can see Dominion’s two test turbines more than 25 miles from his home’s deck, clearly enough some nights to see the rotation of lights on the blade tips.  “If the claim is you can’t see it, that’s not true,” he said.  The next 170 turbines Dominion will build will be far taller than the first two, with wider arcs, very visible from the main Virginia Beach tourist area, especially from the upper hotel floors.

Concerns about the visual impact on North Carolina tourism have drawn fire from the John Locke Foundation in that state.  Projects further south than Kitty Hawk Wind are much closer to shore.

Avangrid’s proposed first phase, Kitty Hawk North, is expected to have a nameplate capacity of 800 megawatts.  It is about 27 miles off the Outer Banks, but the high voltage transmission cables to Sandbridge would be 36 miles long and come ashore right in the large parking lot at the north end of the complex, where the shopping and restaurants are located.

From there, power lines would extend to Corporate Landing for a connection to the main electrical grid’s backbone.  The preferred power line route in the filed plan follows Sandbridge Road.  Construction is slated to begin in early 2027.

Dominion’s wind power will come ashore on state property away from homes and businesses, creating less disruption.  But its plans to connect to the grid are more detailed now, and its miles of major overhead lines are drawing local opposition.  Bourne gives Dominion high marks for public engagement, and for making some adjustments to its design.  Avangrid has not been as responsive, he said.  That was one reason Virginia Beach City Council punted on the easement request in February.

If its website is up to date, the last time the region’s newspaper wrote about the opposition to the project was last summer, before the updated construction plan was filed and before the first discussion at Virginia Beach City Council.   The region’s governments and business community still have high hopes of becoming the construction and operations hub for many offshore wind complexes, which has been the focus of multiple supportive comments filed with BOEM about the Dominion project.

Bourne said he and others are going group by group to present the case that offshore wind is not going to be a boon and has major drawbacks.  Ultimately, he thinks that the longer the build-out takes, the more financial support may dry up.  Several of the wind developers are showing signs of financial stress.  Avangrid is one of the firms seeking to renegotiate previously made U.S. power purchase deals.

“People lie, governments lie, but the money tells the truth,” Bourne said.  Money is the “unbiased referee.”

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.


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10 responses to “Residents Ask VA Beach to Reject Wind Easement”

  1. Matt Adams Avatar
    Matt Adams

    Will the dead hulks of Off-Shore windmills just serve as markers when they are no longer a hot button issue?

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Whoever came up with this plan was not thinking clearly. First of all, why is it coming ashore in Virginia, rather than North Carolina. They should go through Duck and Corolla, rather than Sandbridge.

    Steve’s description sort of enhances Sandbridge. The area “at the north end of the complex, where the shopping and restaurants are located” consists of one small grocery store, an attached restaurant, several small gift shops, a sub shop, and an ice cream shop. More importantly, there is a large condo unit at that location. I bet those people who paid several hundred thousand dollars for their condos are not pleased at the prospect of having high voltage cables coming ashore in their side yards.

    The worst feature of this plan is Sandbridge Road being the preferred route for the power line. That is a heavily traveled, winding, narrow two-lane road with poor drainage. Bringing in heavy construction equipment on that road will prove disastrous. Did I mention that the Back Bay National Wildlife Rufuge borders Sandbridge Road along most of this stretch?

    The company would be better off negotiating with the Commonwealth to allow it to move landfall a few miles up the coast and come ashore on state land as Dominion is doing.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The COP details options of coming ashore in NC, but it is a long way from the Outer Banks to a real connection to the grid’s main lines, which are closest there in VB. As to the retail area, is it still just the one restaurant? I haven’t been there since our son did his wedding on that beach in 2013. 🙂

      I think the big problem is the plan is three turbine phases, each of which will bring two cables ashore, so the process could take years. Some kind of transformer gizmo the size of a box car gets buried below the parking lot for each connection.

      Given Avangrid’s struggles elsewhere, I think this one is getting iffy unless they are going to have a firm buyer for the power.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        The only thing that has changed since 2013 is that the city has made a few of the curves on Sandbridge Road less sharp and more of the medium-sized houses have been replaced by gargantuan ones like the one that your son’s wedding party likely stayed in.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      My immediate guess for Va over NC is that the Outer Banks are just that. Barrier islands subject to massive storm damage and inaccessibility.

      Hell, as nice as they are, when storms hit, Duck and Corolla are nightmares. At least VB and Sandbridge are accessible… somewhat.

      Plus, once ashore at, say, Duck, you have to cross the sound.

    3. I was down there in January and it looked like they are adding a couple of lanes to Sandbridge Road. They were not far enough along for me to tell for sure, but I think it may end up 4-lane divided.

      Or maybe I was seeing the eastern end of the Nimmo Road extension?

      In any event, the city appears to be trying to improve road access to the area.

      By the way, I had not been there in more than 30 years, so it was a big change for me. Giant houses all the way from the north end to the Back Bay Wildlife Preserve. When I was in high school we could still have parties and camp on the beach down near the Preserve. I don’t know if it was legal but no one ever stopped us.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Of course the guy can see the lights at night. You can probably see those lights from Big Blue at NNSB&DD.

    I once altered course at night sure that I was headed toward an emergency strobe on some poor bastard’s PFD. After an hour, I went below, jerked out the charts, and found a strobe atop a tower on the Eastern Shore some 40 miles to the west. At least, that’s what I convinced myself it was when I returned to heading south. Sharks probably would’ve gotten him before me anyway.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Well, the Big Blue NNS crane is just one more feature on a crowded riverbank, not visible to some person standing on an Atlantic beach staring dreamily out to sea in the other direction. I could see it easily from the flight decks on carriers parked in Norfolk. Personally I’m not worked up over the turbine lights, but others may be. A weekend of violence in Virginia Beach at the returning music festival will do more to deter tourism, if it happens again.

  4. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    Don’t mess up Sandbridge, or the back bay or the National Park. However, after sea level rises 5-ft next couple years, good luck. Oh wait, is that just rhetoric about sea level rise as greatest risk to Virginia?

  5. It’s not really residents, though. It’s an astroturf campaign, organised by wind energy’s competition: giant, multinational fossil fuel corporations.

    “Misinformation is derailing renewable energy projects across the United States… misleading ideas about renewable energy come from groups with ties to the fossil fuel industry”

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