Tag Archives: Wind power

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

by James A. Bacon

I’m so confused. We’ve been hearing for years that air pollution from fossil fuel plants disproportionately impacts minorities. Take, for example, a 2018 Environmental Protection Agency study which found that African-Americans faced a 54% higher health burden from particulate air emissions like soot compared to the overall population. Systemic racism was the culprit. Numerous other studies have reached similar conclusions.

To address the systemic racism embedded in the U.S. energy system, greenies have touted the generation of electricity from non-polluting energy sources such as wind and solar. (Let’s set aside the fact that air pollution is displaced in many cases to unregulated mines in Africa, not known for their health and safety conditions, which produce the materials used in wind turbines and solar cells.)

Now comes a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which finds that the health benefits of wind power could quadruple by dialing down production from the most polluting fossil-fuel-based power plants when wind is available. But the study, published in Science Advances, had a disturbing caveat: only 30% of the benefits would reach disadvantaged communities.

“We found that prioritizing health is a great way to maximize benefits in a widespread way across the U.S., which is a very positive thing. But it suggests it’s not going to address disparities,” says MIT co-author Noelle Selin. Continue reading

Account for All of the Costs

by Bill O’Keefe

Opposition to Dominion’s offshore windfarm has come mainly from critics who cite technology, economic, and energy-system concerns and problems. Unfortunately, these have only been persuasive enough to slow down the reckless rush by Dominion and its allies in the General Assembly to obtain SCC approval. What about the impact on human health?

Where is the public health consideration? Windmills are notorious for killing birds and bats, but the significance of this is not explored. After all, what are a few birds and bats worth when it comes to saving the planet? Well, the answer is more than advocates will admit. Killing bats has a human health effect.

Mosquitoes are at the top of bats’ menus. Mosquitoes are the bane of outdoor enjoyment and a boon for the insect spray industry. As a result, most of us give little thought to the dangers of mosquitoes; but they are not trivial.

According to the World Atlas, “These swarming yet stealthy insects have proven to be more than just an annoyance to the human race. In some parts of the world, female mosquitoes (the ones that do the biting) do not just leave behind an itchy red lump, but sometimes also diseases such as dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, lymphatic filariasis, and the big one: malaria. Each year, somewhere around 725,000 to 1,000,000 people die from mosquito-borne diseases.” Continue reading

Coalition Exploring Lawsuit to Challenge CVOW

The following news release has been issued by the Thomas Jefferson Institute along with other coalition partners. 

A coalition of public interest groups – The Heartland Institute, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP) – announced in late September that it has hired counsel to explore a lawsuit protecting the right whale from Dominion Energy Virginia’s efforts to place an offshore wind (OSW) project directly in their habitat off the coast of Virginia. Continue reading

Wojick on Whales III: The Noisy Driving of Piles

Tethys, wife of Oceanus and mother of the river gods.

by David Wojick

The Virginia wind-versus-whales story has taken a turn for the worse. Worse for the severely endangered Right Whales that is. My research has found what may be some really bad news.

Meet Tethys. Not the real Tethys, the mythical Greek Titan of the sea, but the U.S. Department of Energy’s center for reporting research on the environmental impact of energy technology on sea life, including whales. This is the science side of DOE (where I used to work), not the Ocean Energy development side. Continue reading

Youngkin Endorses Dominion Wind Project

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. Continue reading

Racial Bean Counting for Dominion’s Offshore Wind Project?

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

Virginia, Heed the EU’s Failed Climate Policy

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

General Herring: Air All Data in Wind Application

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

Oops. Wind Farm to Cost $2 Billion More

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

Bacon Bits: Wind, Rain and Sun Edition

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

Nantucket Wind Suit May Have Virginia Echoes

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

A Cautionary Tale

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

Wind Power Is Beautiful But Expensive

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

Still an Open Question: Will Virginia Become Supply Chain Hub for East-Coast Wind Farms?

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

What Dominion Has Learned From Its Experimental Wind Turbines


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