By Paula C. Squires
Virginia won’t be getting the first offshore wind turbine generator project in the U.S after all. Global wind company Gamesa said Monday that it will build the wind turbine prototype in Spain’s Canary Islands instead of on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
In a press release, the company cited a slow-developing U.S. market for wind power, as part of the reason behind its change of plans. “ … The prospects for the U.S. offshore market and its regulatory conditions in this segment so far do not justify the next step, the installation of a prototype in the U.S.,” the company said. The new location on the Canary Islands south of Spain and off northwest Africa offers high wind resources and optimal returns on investment, Gamesa said, because of the proximity of the site to Gamesa’s factories in Spain where the turbine will be manufactured.
In March, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) approved the proposed construction of a 479-foot tall, five-megawatt wind turbine generator, that would have been built in the lower Chesapeake Bay, about three miles from Cape Charles. Gamesa Energy USA, in a partnership with Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, was behind the project, lauded by Gov. Bob McDonnell as an important milestone in putting Virginia at the forefront of clean energy technology development. Gamesa said Monday that the Offshore Wind Technology Center that it opened jointly with Newport News Shipbuilding in Chesapeake will wind down at the end of the year as the design phase of the offshore wind platform is completed.
“I want to commend Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his administration, especially the VMRC, for the time and effort they put into approving the permit for this project,” David Flitterman, chairman, Gamesa North America, said in a statement. “The governor is a leader for his vision to utilize clean, renewable energy, and his team did everything in their power to fast track this offshore wind development.”
In the same statement, Doug Stitzel, Newport News Shipbuilding vice president of energy programs, called Gamesa’s decision “disappointing … Huntington Ingalls Industries’ ability to design, fabricate and deliver complex, marinized, safety-related components will be required to satisfy the growing needs for energy. We look forward to future opportunities for collaboration with Gamesa and other alternative energy leaders.“
Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter, weighed inon Gamesa’s decision to pull out of Virginia. He said “a lack of leadership in this state on energy policy,” is costing Virginia jobs. Besa blamed politicians and Virginia’s largest utility, Dominion Virginia Power, for the failure in leadership. “Sadly, Dominion has far too much political power, and it is using its clout to guarantee rosy profits for shareholders at the expense of most Virginians. Politicians from Governor Bob McDonnell to U.S. Senator Mark Warner have done virtually nothing to advance renewable energy in Virginia,” Besa said.
Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, responded to Besa’s criticism by noting that the company is investing in renewable energy, with biomass generation at five locations and a solar generation plan pending before state regulators. “So renewable energy from Dominion will play a role in Virginia’s energy future, but it must be at reasonable cost to consumers. Our balanced fuel mix is a key to our state’s strong economy and our reasonable rates.”