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Department of Energy awards Dominion $47 million for wind project

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The federal Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded Dominion Virginia Power an additional $47 million to help fund the construction of a 12-megawatt offshore wind turbine demonstration project off the coast of Virginia Beach.

The project consists of two 6-megawatt, direct-drive offshore wind turbines that will produce enough electricity to power up to 3,000 homes.

“This was a highly competitive process, and we thank DOE for recognizing this demonstration project is using innovative designs that will both lower the cost and lower the risk of future commercial scale offshore wind projects located in hurricane prone regions,” Mary C. Doswell, Dominion’s senior vice president-Retail and Alternative Energy Solutions, said in a statement.

DOE announced Wednesday that Richmond-based Dominion was one of three companies – out of seven finalists -- to advance to the second phase of demonstration and to receive additional funding of up to $47 million over the next four years.

The other projects were Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey and Principle Power of Oregon. Fisherman’s Energy plans to install five 5-megawatt, direct-drive wind turbines in state waters about three miles off the coast of Atlantic City. Principle Power will install five 6-megawatt, direct-drive wind turbines about 18 miles off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon. It will be designed with a semi-submersible floating foundation that will be assembled on shore and towed out to sea. The  design mitigates the need for the vessels typically used to assemble and install offshore wind systems at sea.

This second round of funding follows a December 2012 announcement where each of the seven finalists received an initial $4 million in federal matching funds to undertake preliminary engineering, design and permitting activities.

The Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP) will be located in federal waters about 24 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Dominion and the VOWTAP team — including the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy — plans to include innovative technologies such as a hurricane-resilient design to ensure that offshore wind facilities can be reliable, safe, and cost-effective.

VOWTAP plans to seek State Corporation Commission approval to have the turbines up and generating electricity in 2017.  According to Dominion, the project could have an economic impact of $10 million and create up to 100 new jobs per year through construction.

The demonstration project will be directly adjacent to the commercial area Dominion is leasing from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Dominion said it intends to apply the research and lessons learned from VOWTAP to the development of the commercial lease.

“The responsible development of Virginia’s offshore energy resources, including wind, oil, and natural gas, will mean more jobs in Hampton Roads and throughout the commonwealth, and another step towards greater energy security for our nation,” U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) said in a statement.

The additional funding also was endorsed by several environmental groups who urged Dominion to move forward with its larger commercial lease project. “We applaud the Department of Energy’s selection of the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP) for continued funding,” said Eileen Levandoski with the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.  “With the priority being the advancement of an offshore wind industry in the United States, the Dominion-led VOWTAP project holds great promise.” She added in a statement that "as it stands, all of Virginia’s offshore wind cards are now in Dominion’s hand. Ultimately we want to see all 2,000-plus megawatts of the federal commercial wind area under construction no later than 2020. That goal is aided considerably by this awarding of DOE second-round funding to Dominion.”

VOWTAP’s other partners are Alstom Power Inc., a wind turbine manufacturer that will supply the turbines; KBR, a global engineering, construction, and services firm with experience in offshore wind; Keystone Engineering, the designer of the innovative substructure; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center; Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries; and the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute, representing the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium.

Dominion, the parent company of Dominion Virginia Power, also announced Wednesday that it has acquired two stand-alone solar energy developments in southwest Tennessee.

The two projects are currently in late-stage development by Strata Solar of Chapel Hill, N.C.  The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), under its renewable standard offer program, will purchase power from both projects, which are slated for commercial operation by the fourth quarter. 

"This is another important addition to Dominion's growing portfolio of solar energy," David A. Christian, CEO for Dominion Generation, said in a statement. "We believe it is necessary to develop and maintain a diverse generation mix, ranging from traditional sources to renewable energy. These two projects strategically align with our regulated and unregulated generation portfolio.  We are pleased to team up with TVA on the largest solar developments in Tennessee."

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