Dominion can soon start building Virginia Beach offshore wind farm, feds say
Dominion Energy will soon have the green light to start building its long-awaited wind farm off the Virginia Beach coast.
The Biden administration announced Tuesday its approval of the $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, which when constructed will be the largest in the country’s history.
Dominion can now start constructing infrastructure for the project on-shore, said spokesperson Jeremy Slayton. The company just needs the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to OK its construction and operations plan for the offshore farm.
This week's approval "is a monumental achievement for Dominion Energy and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind team," Dominion CEO Bob Blue said in a statement. "More than a decade of work has gone into the development, design and permitting of CVOW."
The company's federal lease for the project is located about 27 miles from the Oceanfront, stretching roughly the size of 85,000 football fields.
Dominion installed two pilot turbines for the project in 2020. They stretch more than 600 feet above the water, taller than the Washington Monument.
The company plans to install 176 more. Dominion says the 2.6-gigawatt project could provide carbon-free power to about 660,000 homes total at peak output, while the federal government puts that number at 1 million homes. Slayton said officials use different electricity calculation methods.
BOEM, which oversees the federal lease and permitting, finalized its environmental review of the project last month.
Officials found that some major impacts are unavoidable. Putting in the turbines is likely to limit commercial fishing activities and could lead to vessels striking endangered North Atlantic right whales.
But the agency said it had adopted all practical measures to avoid or minimize potential harm.
Local researchers are in the middle of a Dominion-funded study looking at how the turbines could affect the flight path of birds including whimbrels, a type of shorebird crucial to the Eastern Shore ecosystem.
In a news release Tuesday, federal officials said the project is “generating vital economic development for Virginia’s Hampton Roads area and supporting investments in the Virginia coastal region as a hub for offshore wind development and support.”
Last week, the first eight monopile foundations for the project rolled into the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, which will serve as a launch point during construction.
The utility provider plans to start construction on the project in May and hopes to be operational by late 2026.
Slayton emphasized Tuesday's decision "keeps our project on-time and on-budget."
Dominion will pay Virginia Beach about $19 million for city easements that would allow the company to run cables to transmit electricity from the wind farm onshore.
BOEM said it is on track to review at least 16 more offshore wind energy projects across the country by 2025, most of them along the East Coast.