Port Authority to receive $20 million for offshore wind
By Jimmy LaRoue
The Virginia Port Authority will receive a $20 million grant from the Department of Transportation to make improvements to Portsmouth Marine Terminal to turn it into a staging area to support the building of 180 wind turbines 27 to 42 miles off the Virginia Beach coast.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine made the announcement Jan. 13 and said in a joint statement that “this funding is a recognition of the Commonwealth’s leadership in this space and will go a long way toward establishing Virginia as a hub for offshore wind development along the East Coast.”
The money came from the Department of Transportation’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, a competitive discretionary grant program run by the Maritime Administration. Warner, Kaine and Rep. Bobby Scott co-signed a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in support of the port’s grant application.
Last October, Siemens Gamesa announced that it would develop more than 80 acres of the Port of Virginia’s 287-acre terminal to manufacture the blades to go on the turbines, bringing 310 jobs and positioning itself, the port and the surrounding Hampton Roads area for future growth as a hotbed of maritime and renewable energy activity. Dominion Energy had previously announced that it is leasing 72 acres at the terminal for 10 years to stage and pre-assemble the foundations and turbines.
Two Siemens Gamesa six-megawatt, 620-foot wind turbines off the Virginia Beach coast began generating power in late summer 2020 and can power up to 3,000 homes. The Coastal Virginia project will be able to power 660,000 homes when it goes online.
Virginia and Danish offshore wind developer Ørsted reached an agreement in 2020 to have the company lease 1.7 acres at the terminal for offshore wind equipment and staging materials through at least 2026, with options to expand to an additional 40 acres.
By late 2026 when the 180 turbines are expected to go online, officials have said there would be about 1,100 direct and indirect jobs across Hampton Roads and nearly $210 million in economic activity.
In a related development, Gov. Ralph Northam has signed an agreement with Denmark’s Ministry of Climate Energy and Utilities to work cooperatively to advance the offshore wind industry.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball and Danish Minister of Climate Energy and Utilities Dan Jørgensen virtually signed a memorandum of understanding Jan. 14.
The agreement calls for Virginia and Denmark to work as partners and share best practices, along with challenges and success stories in the offshore wind sector.
Northam said the state is well-positioned to grow in offshore wind and noted the state can learn from Denmark’s experience with having the highest proportion of wind power in the world.
“We have purposely worked to position Virginia as a leader in offshore wind,” Northam said in a statement.
The Danish minister said the state’s ambition and his country’s experience with more than 6,000 wind turbines there combine for a “perfect partnership.”
“Virginia has made an ambitious decision to build a 2.6-gigawatt offshore wind farm by 2026,” Jørgensen said. “I hope that our long regulatory experiences within offshore wind can contribute to a successful undertaking in Virginia. At the same time, Denmark can be inspired by new and innovative approaches. Together, we stand stronger in the green transition.”
Virginia and Denmark will also work on other issues such as renewable energy’s strategic role, climate change and energy security.
Two Danish companies, Ørsted and Rose Holm Inc., have sites in Virginia. In 2020, Rose Holm built a manufacturing facility in Richmond, the company’s first outside Denmark, to produce industrial fasteners with a focus on offshore wind.
The state will be connected to two major offshore wind farms now in development. Besides the one off the Virginia Beach coast, another off the northeastern North Carolina coast that will run its power cables to a substation in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach.
The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Commercial Project will generate 2.6 gigawatts of power when completed and the coastal North Carolina wind farm 2.5 gigawatts.
The Port of Virginia posted its most productive year on record, processing more than 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2021, according to a news release.
In a statement, port CEO and Executive Director Stephen Edwards said the port was able to overcome challenges in world trade.
“We kept our focus and delivered a best-in-class performance with solid efficiency, customer service and a record amount of cargo,” Edwards said. “It was (a) truly collaborative effort between our entire team and all of our partners.”
The port processed more than 325,000 TEUs in December, the most productive month in port history, eclipsing its mark of 318,000 TEUss processed in October. December 2021 volumes were ahead of December 2020 by 25%, or more than 65,000 TEUs.
Edwards said the port’s success isn’t just in cargo volumes, but in long-term efforts toward infrastructure improvements such as dredging, the Norfolk International Terminals Central Rail Yard, equipment and offshore wind.
He said in about two years, the port will be able to process more than 1 million rail lifts yearly and dredging progress has the port on track to be the deepest on the East Coast by late 2024.
Read the full Suffolk News-Herald piece here