Dominion offshore wind farm hits next federal benchmark
BOEM could approve project by end of Oct.
Dominion Energy’s proposed offshore wind farm on Monday hit another major milestone.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced it has completed its environmental assessment of the project, planned 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, a little more than two years after the review began. The nearly 700-page report, which is expected to be published Friday in the Federal Register, starts the clock ticking on a minimum 30-day waiting period before the BOEM issues its final decision on whether to approve the project.
Monday’s announcement means that Dominion’s $9.8 billion, 2.6-gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is on track to start construction in 2024. The Fortune 500 utility will begin installing 176 turbines, which could power as many as 660,000 homes by 2026, upon the project’s completion.
The project will be the nation’s largest offshore wind farm and aligns with a state mandate that the Richmond-based Dominion go carbon-free by 2045. The Biden administration also has a goal of reaching 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030.
“The completion of our environmental review marks another step towards a clean energy future — one that benefits communities and co-exists with other ocean users,” BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein said in a statement. “The best available science and knowledge shared by tribes, other government agencies, local communities, ocean users, industry, environmental organizations and others informed the analyses contained in this document, and we look forward to continued engagement with all of our partners and key stakeholders as we proceed with next steps.”
The lengthy environmental impact statement details the effects the project and its construction could have on physical, biological, socioeconomic and cultural resources, including on marine and other wildlife, vessel traffic and navigation, commercial and recreational fishing and other impacts. It follows a draft impact statement published in December that was followed by a 60-day public comment period. BOEM received 50 comments from federal, tribal, state and local government agencies as well as the public and non-governmental organizations.
“The completion of CVOW’s environmental review is another significant milestone to keep the project on time and on budget. Regulated offshore wind has many benefits for our customers and local economies — it’s fuel free, emissions free and diversifies our fuel mix to maintain the reliability of the grid,” Bob Blue, Dominion Energy’s chair, president and CEO, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement reinforces the confidence that the company, our vendors and our suppliers have in our project’s completion, providing further motivation to maintain focus on delivering on time and on budget knowing we and our government partners continue to meet critical milestones.”
Should the project attain approval, Dominion would still be required to receive BOEM’s final OK for its construction and operations plan, which could occur by February 2024. Dominion spokesperson Jeremy L. Slayton told Virginia Business on Monday that shore-based construction could begin sooner, though off-shore construction must wait until May, when the North Atlantic right whale migration period ends. Virginia’s State Corporation Commission approved the project in August 2022.
Slayton said a Dominion team is reviewing BOEM’s impact statement.
“We are pleased the final EIS confirmed the proposed onshore electric transmission route and wind farm turbine layout,” Slayton said. “We have taken significant steps offshore to minimize impacts to marine life and onshore to design and build an optimized transmission route that limits impacts to natural and cultural resources and surrounding communities to the maximum extent possible.”
Dominion is already operating two wind turbines off the Virginia Beach coast as part of a pilot project. The company said in a news release Monday that more than 750 Virginia-based workers, about 530 of whom are in Hampton Roads, are working on the project or with businesses supporting it.
In Hampton Roads, other work is underway to create a wind energy hub, including a $200 million Siemens Gamesa wind turbine factory under construction in Portsmouth and Fairwinds Landing, a Norfolk property that will serve as a maritime operations and logistics center supporting Hampton Roads’ offshore wind, defense and transportation industries.