by Steve Haner
Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration has filed a letter with the State Corporation Commission asking the regulators to approve the Dominion Energy Virginia application to build a 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project.
The letter was on Department of Energy letterhead and signed by that agency’s director John Warren, a holdover from the Democratic Ralph Northam administration.
During and after the 2021 campaign, Youngkin was critical of the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) that mandated SCC approval of the project, slated to cost just under $10 billion. He expressed a desire to protect consumers from rising energy costs. But he and his staff took no role in the 2022 legislative efforts to repeal VCEA or restore more SCC authority over costs, bills which passed in the House of Delegates but failed in a Senate committee stacked with Democrats.
He is now off the sidelines. Youngkin’s support for the project assumes it can become an economic boon to the state. His department director wrote: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Dominion Energy expects to create 900 construction jobs and support 1,100 employees in ongoing operations for its proposed $9.8 billion offshore wind farm. Hundreds more jobs could be created if, as hoped, companies in the wind power industry begin manufacturing components and providing ancillary services in Hampton Roads.
As part of its wind farm initiative, the utility has created an economic development plan for maximizing investment and job creation in Virginia and ensuring that the benefits are shared broadly, including with veterans and “workers from historically economically disadvantaged communities.” The plan says the company will engage with economic development authorities, business trade organizations, workforce development groups, and “minority civic and business organizations.” It even plans to collect data on the number of women, veterans and minorities employed by suppliers with contracts over $500,000 in value.
But that’s not good enough for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Dominion’s Plan is not sufficient to meet the diversity, equity, and inclusion targets” outlined in the state code, says Mark Little, co-founder of CREATE in State Corporation Commission testimony on behalf of the Sierra Club.
Little wants Dominion to set “ambitious, progressive targets” on the number and percentage of employees to be hired by sex, race/ethnicity, and veteran status, collect detailed statistics on the demographic composition of the hires, and publish updates every six months. Furthermore, Little says Dominion needs to make “structural changes” such as hiring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officers to execute its vision. Continue reading
by Bill O’Keefe
U.S. climate policy has been heavily influenced by actions taken by European nations, even when it was obvious that many of those actions were fraught with problems.
Now the European Union (EU) may be on the verge of taking steps to reverse course and allowing economic and political realities to exert a greater influence on policy. The EU, which led the movement away from fossil fuels to green energy, mainly wind and solar, is seeing its dream become a nightmare — wind and solar don’t work the way they were supposed to, and energy costs are skyrocketing.
On New Year’s Day, Reuter’s reported that the EU may be on the verge of reversing course. It has developed a proposal that would allow some natural gas and nuclear facilities to qualify as “green.”
Since CO2 is the alleged threat to our future, nuclear power, which doesn’t emit CO2, is by definition “green.” Disposal of nuclear waste is an issue, but not a major one if you believe that the alternative is destruction of the planet. Similarly, natural gas emits far less CO2 than coal, and companies are investing in carbon capture technology. EU green advocates continue to build natural gas plants because gas is what they burn when wind and solar can’t meet the demand for electricity. Continue reading
Attorney General Mark R. Herring
An open letter to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring:
Dear General Herring:
As was reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dominion Energy Virginia filed on Friday its application for approval to build offshore wind turbines with a nameplate capacity of 2,600 megawatts. The very first motion made to the State Corporation Commission was a request to keep all the important financial and engineering information confidential, away from public inspection.
I write as a Dominion customer and write to you in your statutory role as the representative for consumers before the SCC. You are my lawyer.
Please do everything in your power to persuade the SCC to reject that motion for secrecy. On behalf of the people of Virginia, break that seal. I hope other likely parties in the case will join you, but you should take the lead. There is no justification for hiding all the reams of information which will be produced in the coming review, and which will have a direct impact on the cost and reliability of our electricity for decades to come.
Waiting until the smoke had cleared from the recent election, in which the company embarrassed itself, the announcement included an admission that the price of the proposed project has already risen more than 20% to almost $10 billion.
There has long been too much secrecy in the SCC’s cases, a complaint I have aired several times in various forums. This has been accompanied by a reduction in the amount of attention given to these matters in the traditional news media, with the most active news source these days hardly objective but instead a cheerleader for this unreliable, intermittent electricity source. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Dominion Energy’s CEO Bob Blue acknowledged yesterday that the cost of the power company’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project will cost $9.8 billion — $2 billion more than previously stated.
During an investor conference call, Blue blamed the 25% jump on “commodity and general cost pressures” as well as completion of design plans for transmitting electricity from the wind farm through populated areas in Virginia Beach to a substation where it can plug into the grid.
Blue said the impact on ratepayers — an extra $4 per month for an average residential customer — has not changed because the company is projecting that the wind farm will be more productive than originally thought, reports the Virginia Mercury.
Where have Virginians heard this before? Oh, I remember, this sounds reminiscent of the Silver Line extension of the Washington Metro to Dulles International Airport, which has encountered revised cost estimate after revised cost estimate. We can only hope that Dominion won’t encounter the same delays as the Northern Virginia commuter rail project, the second phase of which is now running about two years behind schedule. Continue reading
What happens when the wind doesn’t blow? The North Sea, locale of the world’s largest cluster of wind farms, normally delivers strong, consistent wind flows that keeps the turbines spinning. But every once in a while, weather happens and the winds diminish. That’s what’s occurring now. Blame it on global warming, if you will — that seems to be the explanation for every inconvenient fluctuation in rainfall, temperature and extreme weather.
Whatever the cause, according to the Wall Street Journal, the falloff in wind is wreaking havoc in the United Kingdom, where wind supplies 25% of the nation’s electric power. Due to the wind “shortage,” marginal electricity prices have shot up to the equivalent of $395 per megawatt/hour (or $0.395 per kilowatt hour). That compares to the statewide average of $0.11 per kilowatt hour in Virginia. To make up the deficit, UK utilities have been burning more… coal. Coal will provide a backstop until 2024, when all coal-fired plants will be shuttered. Is anyone in Virginia paying attention?
Speaking of coal… Southwest Virginians are still casting around for ideas of what to do when the coal plants close. There is no lack of creative thinking. I just don’t know how practical it is. Here is the latest: growing artisanal grains. Once upon a time, Virginia’s coal counties grew grain to supply alcohol feedstock for a booming coal-town bars and saloons. The economics shifted in favor of massive Midwest farms, which enjoyed economies of scale, and local grain farming nearly ceased. But, according to The Virginia Mercury, local economic-development groups want to play on the local-food movement to make Southwest Virginia a primary source of specialty grains for Virginia’s growing craft beverage industry. Virginia imports 400,000 bushels of grain into the state. Snagging a piece of that action could support a lot of farms.
With climate change, who knows how that will work out. Let’s hope the rain keeps falling. Continue reading
Source: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
by Steve Haner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
A group of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts residents have filed suit challenging the pre-construction environmental review on a massive offshore wind complex planned off its shores. The issues raised may have a direct impact on the similar wind energy project planned off Virginia Beach, which is only now beginning its environmental impact process. Continue reading
Dominion’s experimental wind turbines off the Virginia coast.
by Bill O’Keefe
The General Assembly, Governor Ralph Northam, and Dominion Energy are proud of their commitment to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. Dominion routinely showcases its planned wind farm 27 miles off of the Virginia coast. Before Dominion and the Commonwealth get beyond the point of no return — governments don’t acknowledge sunk costs, opportunity costs or terminate failed programs — they would do well to closely examine the experience with wind power in Germany.
Germany is a leader in the green energy movement and has installed over 30,000 windmills. The German renewable energy program started in 2000. After 20 years, there is a problem. The German wind power industry is suffering setbacks. Hardly any new turbines are being built, and more and more old wind turbines are being phased out. Some of the problems don’t apply to Virginia since they concern on-shore wind mills but there are lessons to be learned.
Many German wind farms are threatened with shutdown. The German Renewable Energy Act, which has been in force since 2000, guarantees wind turbine operators secure subsidies for twenty years. Without subsidies they are no longer profitable. By 2025, there is a risk of 15,000 MW of wind projects will be lost corresponding to over a quarter of Germany’s onshore wind power. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Offshore wind turbines are works of engineering beauty. Soaring as high as the Washington Monument, they are a magnificent sight to behold, as I saw for myself on an excursion Wednesday to view Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines up close. The towers are also very expensive — not just the two pilot turbines, which no one pretended at $300 million for the pair would produce economical electricity, but the fully built-out wind farm with 180 turbines at a cost currently estimated at $7.8 billion.
If the only cost you consider is the expense of erecting a turbine itself, offshore wind can look competitive with solar and combined-cycle natural gas. Dominion officials estimate their wind turbines will generate electricity at a cost of 8 cents to 9 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than the average rate of $10.83 cents per kilowatt hour Dominion charges its customers.
But the turbines don’t generate electricity in a vacuum. They are part of an electrical-generating system. And you can’t build a system around turbines that generate electricity only when the wind blows. Dominion must build a major transmission line to plug into the grid and maintain backup power sources to kick in when the winds fall still. Continue reading
The Luxembourg-flagged Vole Au Vent is seen here installing one of Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines 27 miles off the Virginia coast last year. Photo credit: Dominion. An American-made vessel will install the next 180 or so turbines.
by James A. Bacon
The primary justification for spending $7.8 billion to build a wind farm off the Virginia coast at a significantly higher cost per kilowatt than other energy sources is to advance Virginia’s goal of achieving a zero-carbon electric grid by 2050. But an important secondary consideration is the hope that the project will jump-start the creation of a new industry in Hampton Roads serving the emerging East Coast offshore wind industry.
Virginia has deep channels, no bridge obstructions, an active maritime community, and perhaps the nation’s largest shipbuilding industry. Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project, it is hoped, will catalyze development of a multibillion-dollar offshore wind-energy industry in Virginia.
That case is a little harder to make these days. When Dominion decided to invest $500 million in building an offshore wind-turbine installation vessel, none of Virginia’s shipbuilding companies was interested. All were booked up with Navy contracts. The vessel, named after the mythical Greek sea monster Charybdis, is being constructed in Brownsville, Texas. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Dominion Energy spent $300 million to erect the two wind turbines now standing about 27 miles off the Virginia coast, a sum that could never be justified by the 12 megawatts of generating capacity they add to the grid— enough to power only 3,000 homes. The real benefit will come later, when Dominion builds a proposed 180-turbine wind farm expected to generate 2,640 megawatts of capacity, enough to power up to 600,000 homes, at a projected cost of $7.8 billion.
Thanks to the data gathered from the two experimental turbines, Dominion officials say it will need 40 fewer of the multimillion-dollar turbines than it had originally anticipated, a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, from the experience of leasing an expensive, hard-to-book installation vessel, Dominion is investing $500 million, risking shareholders’ money not ratepayers’ money, which will serve other East Coast windfarm projects as well as Dominion’s at a lower cost than chartering a European vessel.
Company officials say they have learned other odds and ends from the experimental turbines that will inform their safety and environmental efforts going forward. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The world economy is rapidly electrifying. Driven by new technologies and the environmentalist push to decarbonize the economy, an increasing share of the energy Americans consume will come out of the electric socket, reports the Wall Street Journal in a special report. “Instead of having fuels like natural gas or oil or gasoline flow directly into our homes, offices, manufacturing facilities and cars, those fuels — and other sources of energy — will increasingly be converted to electricity first.”
A Princeton University study finds that electrifying buildings and transportation could double the amount of electricity used in the United States by 2050, lifting electricity’s share of total energy from about 20% today to close to 50%.
Electrification offers the ability to harness renewable power sources, primarily wind and solar, to displace carbon fuels that contribute to global warming. But it does present the challenge of maintaining the integrity of the electric grid in the face of natural disasters, cyber attacks, and other challenges. While many environmentalists consider global warming to be an existential threat to humanity, a collapse of the electric grid accounting for 50% of all energy consumption would pose an equally existential threat to human well being — within the next two or three decades, not by the end of the century. Continue reading
by Bill O’Keefe
Dominion Energy’s decision to build a gigantic windfarm and have net zero emissions by 2045 is a political ploy rather than a well-developed business decision. Why do I say that? First, Dominion buys bi-partisan political support in the General Assembly, as if it was needed. Second, it now gets broad support from the environmental community. And, if it flops, as it is likely to do, rate payers will be left holding the bail-out bag.
Dominion plans to site over 200 windmills 27 miles off of the coast of Virginia. The area occupied will be about 176 square miles, which is three times larger than Richmond and about the size of Clarke County. The current cost estimate for this project is $7.8 billion, but that will certainly increase.
By committing to a project of this size, Dominion is freezing innovation and putting its transmission grid at risk. The cold spell that is gripping the U.S. reveals a major vulnerability of wind and solar as well as the vulnerability of the grid. Continue reading
Frozen Texas wind turbine. Credit: Watts Up With That?
As I repeatedly remind people, you don’t build an electric power grid to handle routine weather conditions, you build them to survive rare but extreme weather events. Texas, which became enamored with wind power — wind accounted for between 22% of the state’s electricity in the first half of 2019 — has learned this lesson the hard way. In the midst of a bitter cold snap expected to last several days, ice storms knocked out nearly half the state’s wind-power generating supply. The spot price of electricity has surged to $9,000 per megawatt hour, compared to $100 per megawatt hour during periods of high summer demand. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas called on consumers and businesses to reduce electricity use as much as possible Feb. 14, through Feb. 16. Just imagine how bad the situation would be if Texas derived 100% of its electricity from renewable energy.
Meanwhile, the question Virginians need to be asking in anticipation of the commonwealth deriving much of its electricity from offshore wind power within a few years is this: What’s the freezing temperature for salt water?
Answer: 28.4° Fahrenheit. Continue reading
Posted in Energy
Tagged Wind power
Schematic of a floating nuclear power plant. Credit: JVE Journals
by Bill O’Keefe
Dominion Energy, with the blessing of the Legislature is in the process of building a monstrous wind farm off the coast of Virginia. It will be 27 miles offshore and occupy an area of over 176 square miles — 92% as large as Richmond. When fully built, there will be 220 windmills, each standing 200 feet above water level. The cost is currently estimated to be $7.8 billion but cost overruns are inevitable. Think about this long enough to form a mental picture of what this will look like.
Since the Legislature has mandated a net zero emission future in the coming decades, Dominion is more than willing to take up the challenge and accommodate the Legislature’s dream. Not only is Dominion guaranteed a rate of return on the power generated but it also profits from capital construction expenditures. Non-regulated corporations should be so lucky. And, if it turns out that the windfarm doesn’t produce as promised or is made obsolete by technology or more accurate climate science, it won’t be Dominion that takes the loss, it will be Dominion’s customers.
When all is said and done, our electricity rates will be much higher than they are today — 12 cents per Kwh, well below states like California committed to the zero-carbon path. California’s residential rates are almost 20 cents per Kwh and rising. One estimate says they will rise to 40 cents when the natural gas ban is fully implemented. Continue reading