The first eight monopile bases for Dominion Energy’s CVOW project arrive on the Portsmouth waterfront. But a planned German-owned wind turbine blade factory nearby ist kaput.
by Steve Haner
Two national activist groups on energy and environmental issues, both with connections to Virginia, have taken the first legal steps to challenge the recent federal approvals for Virginia’s planned offshore wind complex. Most of what follows is directly from their announcement dated November 14.
The Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) are filing with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) a 60 Day Notice of Intent to Sue letter for a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The violation is contained in a defective “biological opinion,” which authorizes the construction of Dominion Energy Virginia’s Virginia Offshore Wind Project (VOW).
There have been two other important developments related to the wind project.
- Dominion has applied to the State Corporation Commission to increase the amounts its ratepayers will be contributing to the construction costs. For residential customers that is currently $4.74 for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage and Dominion want to increase it to $8.63 as of next summer. It is still not in compliance with the state law that gave an exemption from that charge to low income customers, claiming it lacks a list of such customers.
- Dominion’s principal turbine supplier, Europe’s Siemens Gamesa, has abandoned its plans to site a factory supporting the United States wind expansion in Portsmouth. That is a huge blow to Virginia’s dream of being an industry hub. (News was withheld by the state until after the election.) Both the company and many American projects are under huge financial pressure, as the press release on the possible lawsuit notes below. Today we learn German taxpayers may bail out Virginia’s ratepayers.
From Virginia to Germany, Danke Schoen.
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot photo of the first eight monopiles for Dominion’s offshore wind project, celebrated at a ceremony last Thursday upon their delivery.
The Biden Administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has issued final approval for the construction of Dominion Energy Virginia’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. Here is the release. A few more steps remain and should be completed by late January, according to BOEM.
The announcement, fully expected since all previous U.S. projects have been similarly approved, followed by a few days the arrival of the first set of gigantic monopiles, the first eight of the 176 structures Dominion will build about 27 miles or more off Virginia Beach.
The only coverage of their arrival was provided by The Virginian-Pilot. Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) attended and has praised the project all along. The paper provided only an indirect quote from his remarks:
The project is also at the heart of Virginia’s all-of-the-above approach to energy production, which aims to make energy cheap and plentiful by employing fossil fuels, nuclear and growing green energy, said Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who attended the event.
Illustration of planned Equinor offshore wind installation off the coast of New York State. Equinor was one of the developers asking for a price increase, which was rejected.
By Steve Haner
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) last week told several offshore wind developers it would not approve changes in their state contracts, putting several planned ocean turbine projects into jeopardy. The story is important for its contrast to how Virginia faces the same future. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
Virginia is one of only two states that hold their major legislative elections this odd-numbered year, with the other being New Jersey. In New Jersey, the state’s offshore wind aspirations have become a major political issue, with even Democrats now starting to question the wisdom of the plan.
The Democrats control new Jersey, so it is noteworthy that both leading Democratic legislators, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, signed a joint statement expressing concern about “unanswered questions” as the state’s Board of Public Utilities goes full speed ahead on its wind projects. The turnabout is even more dramatic because the same legislators just weeks ago voted to give the private wind developers of the first project a more profitable deal at ratepayer expense. The company was one of those complaining its project was not financially feasible under the original terms.
New Jersey has become a major hotspot for political opposition to offshore wind, in part because the planned projects are often closer to shore and will be more visible from beach homes and tourist areas than the project off Virginia Beach. There is also more focus in that media market on the unexplained spike in whale deaths, now reportedly up to 60 since December of last year.
The same questions of cost and tourism impact remain unanswered in Virginia, but so far there is no sign many candidates are seeking to enter the legislature with promises to reverse course on our $10 billion project, if that is possible at this point. Dominion Energy Virginia intends to build a second wave of turbines, however, and the next few General Assembly sessions will have every opportunity to change the rules for that tranche. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
Homeowners willing to cut back power usage when Dominion Energy Virginia asks them could earn rebates of up to $28 a year. So reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, citing yet another final order from the State Corporation Commission.
The Richmond paper is always bringing us such great news about the folks at the giant utility looking out for us. The headline in the print edition today is even more positive: “New Rebate Program Could Lower Power Bills.”
Who is actually going to provide the $28 in hard cash? Yep, Bacon’s Rebellion readers get it on the first try. Dominion will raise the rebate money given to the few by raising its cost of electricity to everybody. Even the people getting rebates will pay the surcharge. But your bill just goes up a bit — so little you won’t notice the increase starting on September 1.
You also won’t notice it because the increase in the energy efficiency program’s rate adjustment clause (a separate charge also known as a RAC or rider), is just one of several such increases, all hitting September 1.
The higher bill totals will be creeping into your email and snail mail inboxes along with all the campaign brochures about how the 2023 General Assembly provided “bill relief.” That is gone in a puff of smoke. Come September 1 Dominion customers also start paying for, or start paying more for: Continue reading
By Steve Haner
First published by Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. There is some overlap with a post from last week by another author, but with a slightly different focus.
With growing turmoil in the offshore wind industry finally being reported, it would be nice to turn the clock back a year and revisit the State Corporation Commission’s failed 2022 effort to impose a real performance standard on Dominion Energy Virginia’s $10 billion, 176-turbine project. No such luck, Virginia. Continue reading
by David Wojik
The offshore wind industry is suffering a runaway cost crisis, but Dominion Energy says the cost of its monster project will not go up. Apparently, there is not even a risk of it going up. This preposterous claim is worth exploring.
On the crisis side, I recently wrote about it in general terms. See my https://www.cfact.org/2023/07/26/offshore-wind-has-a-cost-crisis/.
The financial magazine Barron’s has done some work on this crisis situation. Here is a telling quote from a recent article:
But behind the scenes, the news about wind power is more sobering. Financially, the industry is teetering, with a parade of companies planning to renegotiate or pull out of contracts, jeopardizing plans for projects that were expected to provide electricity for millions of homes. Inflation is erasing profits, causing some of the largest energy firms in the world to back away. “Returns on offshore wind are becoming more and more challenged,” Shell CEO Wael Sawan told Barron’s last month, just days after a Shell joint venture said it would pull out of a power contract in Massachusetts. Shell won’t build renewable projects that can’t earn initial returns of 6% to 8%, he said. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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
Dominion wins one for the shareholders.
By Steve Haner
The State Corporation Commission has rejected arguments that the Virginia Clean Economy Act would allow Virginia’s dominant electric utility to get more than 35% of its new wind, solar and battery power from third party suppliers. Dominion Energy Virginia is guaranteed by law (actually, required is the better word) to own 65% of those assets directly.
The ruling was issued today in the Commission’s final order on Dominion’s most recent application for additional solar and battery assets, most of which were approved. The question has lingered through several recent cases since the General Assembly passed VCEA in 2020, with various stakeholders arguing that the third-party assets are usually cheaper for consumers and impose less risk from failure.
The lower cost of those alternative approaches was highlighted in this case and discussed earlier on Bacon’s Rebellion. Dominion had rejected several cheaper third-party choices in compiling its plan. That earlier story also touched on the dispute over whether the 35% referenced in the statute was a ceiling or a floor. The SCC looked at the plain wording of the law in effect and declared it really is a target that cannot be ignored or exceeded. To wit:
This particular law is written as follows: “… and 35 percent of such generating capacity procured shall be from [third party-owned resources], with the remainder, in the aggregate, being from construction or acquisition by (Dominion.) As written, the above says “35%” – neither something more nor something less – “shall” be from third party-owned resources.
By Steve Haner
Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to ensure that any future wave of wind turbines built off Virginia must follow a real competitive bid process ended up dead as a beached whale. The General Assembly didn’t just kill his proposed amendment during its reconvened session April 12, it refused to even take up the matter.
Both the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Democrat-controlled Senate voted to “pass by” the substitutes. The substitutes then died when the motion to adjourn was approved at the end of the day. Such a motion is often used to avoid a recorded vote loaded with political risk.
Rejection of the amendments, first discussed here, leaves Youngkin (R) free to veto the underlying bill (actually two identical bills, one in each chamber), but his argument was not with the underlying bills themselves. He was just trying to weaken Dominion Energy Virginia’s control over the wind development process, which has led to Virginia building the first and only $10 billion project with all the cost and risk on its ratepayers. At this point, any second phase will likely be the same.
The gubernatorial amendment on competitive bidding for offshore wind was injecting a new issue in the last stage of the 2023 session. Youngkin offered other amendments which constituted repeat efforts to pass things rejected during the regular part of the session. They met the same fate, some also by motions to pass by supported by his own party. Continue reading
Dominion’s proposed offshore wind project. Phase two, similar in size, would build out to the east.
By Steve Haner
Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed a stronger requirement in state law that any second wave of offshore wind serving Virginia be subjected to a competitive procurement process, rather than simply allowing Dominion Energy Virginia to build it with all the costs and risks imposed on its customers.
The planned 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project now under federal environmental review remains the only such project in the United States which is being developed directly by a monopoly utility. Other projects involve third-party developers raising the capital and taking on much of the financial risk for the multi-billion-dollar investments, then selling the power to utilities.
This is just one of several consumer-oriented amendments Youngkin proposed on a series of energy bills, to be voted on at the General Assembly’s reconvened session April 12. Should the Assembly reject his amendments, his option then is to either sign or veto the bill as it passed in February.
The financial and operational risk imposed on ratepayers by direct utility ownership of the wind farm was the focus of debate before the State Corporation Commission (SCC) finally authorized the project, now estimated to cost $10 billion. A method to shift some of the risk to the company’s shareholders if power output fell below projections was initially accepted but then abandoned by the regulators. Continue reading
A Humpback carcass that washed up in New Jersey recently. Photo: Marine Mammal Stranding Center
By David Wojick
The recent deaths of seven whales off New Jersey, mostly humpbacks, drew national media attention. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Directorate is responsible for whales. An outrageous statement by their spokesperson got me to do some research on humpback whale deaths.
The results are appalling. The evidence seems clear that offshore wind development is killing whales by the hundreds.
Here is the statement as reported in the press:
“NOAA said it has been studying what it calls ‘unusual mortality events’ involving 174 humpback whales along the East Coast since January 2016. Agency spokesperson Lauren Gaches said that period pre-dates offshore wind preparation activities in the region.” Gaches is NOAA Fisheries press chief.
The “unusual mortality” data are astounding. Basically, the humpback death rate roughly tripled starting in 2016 and continued high thereafter. You can see it here. That data is just for humpback whales, with a dramatic acceleration in particular between 2016 and 2020. Continue reading
The late Lt. Gov. Henry Howell (D) and Virginia’s most famous campaign slogan.
By Steve Haner
Without fanfare and without awakening the drowsy Capitol press corps, Dominion Energy Virginia dropped in legislation last week to set up a partnership on its most massive capital investment, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.
Just who that partner might be, what if any benefits that provides to Dominion’s 2.6 million Virginia customers, or whether it instead adds cost and risk for them, remains unexplained. The bill does describe the equity investor as “non-controlling,” leaving the utility in charge. Continue reading