Virginia Electric pursues 12-MW offshore wind project

Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power is actively participating in offshore wind policy and technology development and has a 12-MW offshore project in the advanced planning stages.

This Dominion Resources (NYSE: D) subsidiary described its offshore wind development work in an Aug. 29 integrated resource plan filed at the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

The company bid $1.6m in September 2013, winning the lease for 112,800 acres of federal land off the coast of Virginia to develop a commercial offshore wind turbine facility capable of generating up to 2,000 MW. It is developing the Virginia commercial Wind Energy Area (WEA) and plans to meet the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) timetable for commercial development, including:

  • submittal of the site assessment plan on May 1, 2014;
  • submitting a construction and operations survey plan by Nov. 1, 2014;
  • completing high-resolution geophysical surveys by Nov. 1, 2016; and
  • submitting a construction and operations plan by Nov. 1, 2018.

The utility also submitted a response to a BOEM-issued Call for Information in North Carolina in February 2013, and is evaluating the potential for a project off the coast of that state. The Call for Information is the first step in the leasing process.

BOEM has defined three Wind Energy Areas offshore North Carolina. The three Call Areas are comprised of approximately 55 Outer Continental Shelf blocks, totaling about 307,000 acres. One area is located 24 nautical miles offshore Kitty Hawk, and two are located 12 and 15 nautical miles offshore southern Wilmington. The company’s response focused on the northernmost area adjacent to Kitty Hawk. Since multiple parties responded to the Call for Information, the company expects there will be a competitive auction for lease blocks in the future.

Dominion working under two U.S. Department of Energy grants

“Offshore wind has the potential to provide the largest source of renewable generation for North Carolina and Virginia; however, offshore wind is significantly more expensive compared to other renewable generation alternatives…,” said Dominion. “The Company is actively working to evaluate ways to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy through two DOE funding awards.”

DOE awarded the company and its partners a $500,000 grant in 2011 to identify the impact of innovative technologies on reducing the levelized cost of offshore wind energy relative to a baseline. The grant team brings together the expertise of several partners, including Dominion, a wind turbine manufacturer (Alstom), a federally-funded research and development center (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), a maritime planning and engineering firm (Moffatt & Nichol), and a state university (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). This grant project is currently underway and is scheduled to be complete in 2014.

VOWTAP was among seven projects selected by the DOE in 2012 for a $4m award supporting preliminary engineering, design, and permitting for a proposed offshore wind facility. In May 2014, DOE announced that VOWTAP was one of three projects selected – out of seven finalists – for up to an additional $47m in federal funding to support final design, permitting, and construction.

VOWTAP consists of Dominion as the project owner and operator, and its core team: Alstom; KBR; Keystone Engineering; a Virginia state agency; NREL; the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium represented by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Tetra Tech Inc.; and NNS. Several other vendors and consultants are providing development support.

The VOWTAP team will design, construct, and operate a 12-MW offshore wind facility located approximately 24 nautical miles (27 statute miles) off the coast of Virginia. The project consists of two 6-MW Alstom model Haliade 150 turbines mounted on inward battered guide structures (IBGS), and combined with other significant innovations to make this a world-class demonstration facility. Subject to receiving applicable regulatory approvals, VOWTAP is targeted to go into operation by the end of 2017.

Dominion,as the leaseholder of the WEA, anticipates its experience and knowledge gained through VOWTAP will be applicable to its ongoing commercial-scale offshore wind development.

Virginia legislators support offshore wind development

In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly established a goal of developing 3,000 MW (nameplate) of offshore wind by 2025. Moreover, the General Assembly made it state policy that offshore wind development costs, especially VOWTAP, are in the public interest. Furthermore, the General Assembly passed legislation in 2010 that created the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority (VOWDA) to facilitate offshore wind energy development.

As required by the 2010 legislation, Dominion completed a transmission study to determine possible offshore wind interconnection points to the onshore transmission grid. The company released the results of the study in December 2010, which found that Virginia has an advantage compared to many states because it has the capability to interconnect large scale wind generation facilities with the existing grid in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The study revealed that up to 4,500 MW (nameplate) of offshore wind generation can be connected with minimal onshore transmission upgrades.

The company completed a second study in 2012, evaluating offshore transmission options to potentially support multiple projects. That study found that for every 500 MW-700 MW (nameplate) of offshore wind capacity constructed, one service platform is appropriate with two lines to shore. This transmission solution limits the potential for stranded transmission investment and emphasizes the potential cost savings that may be achieved through a phased build-out, with a potential for standardization of offshore transmission infrastructure, the utility noted.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.