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Report: Offshore Wind Energy Within Reach for Atlantic Coast of Virginia

Leadership from Virginia Officials Could Reap Major Benefits Cut Pollution, Benefit Ratepayers, and Create Jobs
For Immediate Release

Richmond, VA – Virginia could reap tremendous environmental and economic benefits from offshore wind off our coast, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power. The report analyzes and compares the actions by Atlantic Coast states toward progress on offshore wind, placing Virginia in the middle of its peers on its commitment to making offshore wind a reality. 

Over 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic Coast have already been designated by state and federal officials for offshore wind power development and more are being considered. These areas could produce more than 16,000 megawatts of pollution-free electricity – as much as 16 fossil-fuel burning power plants—making offshore wind an attractive option for states developing plans to shift to clean energy to achieve the targets in Clean Power Plan, recently proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The Atlantic Ocean is a clean energy and job-producing goldmine,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “With areas along the Atlantic Coast that can power 5 million homes currently available for leasing, it is a critical moment for state leaders to seize this golden opportunity and create a clean energy future powered by American workers that can protect our wildlife and communities from the dangers of climate change.”

Catching the Wind highlights key progress made to date along the coast, and identifies the critical actions state leaders must take to build on this foundation and bring a game-changing clean energy solution online. In Virginia, the table has been set with the leasing to Dominion Virginia Power of 113,000 acres, 23 nautical miles off of VA Beach. If fully developed, the Virginia Wind Energy Area is expected to generate at least 2,000 megawatts of power – enough electricity to power 700,000 homes. 

“Offshore wind has the best potential to provide a substantial amount of clean energy to the Commonwealth, and to create a very large number of jobs for Virginians,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. “Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads are ideally situated among all East Coast localities for wind development.  We have outstanding wind resources, a robust electrical grid, a trained workforce, and the industrial capacity to build new facilities.”

"Virginia is pleased with the advances and evolution of offshore wind and we look forward to the positive steps for our industry and workforce," said Charles de Cuir, Chairman of the Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition.

“The vast offshore wind resource off our coast can provide tremendous amounts of pollution-free energy; with no fuel costs,” said Sarah Bucci, Campaign Director with Environment Virginia.  “A strong commitment by Virginia leaders to offshore wind energy will go a long way to meeting our energy needs and to reduce the carbon pollution that is altering our climate.”

“Offshore wind power provides Governor McAuliffe with a golden opportunity to move Virginia to the forefront of the clean energy wave,” said David Carr, general counsel of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The proposed demonstration project with just two ‘test’ turbines is not enough when the build-out of the Virginia resource could provide as many as 10,000 clean energy jobs. The Governor must lead the effort to craft state policies that will facilitate a large-scale project in the near term and help address the threats of climate change immediately.”

“Offshore wind off our coast will have a tremendous impact on climate change by reducing carbon pollution and should be given high priority as a solution to meeting the new EPA standards on carbon emissions from fossil-fuel based power plants,” said Chelsea Harnish, Policy and Campaigns Manager with the Virginia Conservation Network.

"With the lowest costs, great wind resource, and world-class port facilities, the Southeast can play a major role in the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry,” said Brian O’Hara, President of the Southeaster Coastal Wind Coalition. “But enabling our utilities and industry to fully explore these opportunities is going to take vision and action by state leaders."

With the following recommendations, the report challenges Virginia’s leaders to move forward with key actions to launch transformational offshore wind power:

1.       Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in Virginia’s energy plan.
2.       Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power, provide for cost recovery, and reduce pollution across the electricity sector.
3.       Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible approval process, working closely with the federal government and key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.

Highlights of Catching the Wind Report:

  • Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. This is a massive, local clean power opportunity currently available to state energy planners. What’s needed now is action by Virginia’s leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
  • Offshore Wind Power Will Spark Massive Job Creation. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
  • Offshore Wind Power Can Help States Meet New Carbon Pollution Limits. Coastal states have a massive untapped pollution-free energy source sitting right off their shores that can play a major role in meeting the carbon emission reduction targets required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan released last month.
  • Offshore Wind Power is an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice: As decades of experience in Europe indicates, strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife.

Read the report online at NWF.org/OffshoreWind.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future.

Environment Virginia is a state-wide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy group working for a cleaner, greener, healthier Virginia. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast.  

The Virginia Conservation Network is a network of more than 150 organizations committed to protecting Virginia's natural resources.