Home Is Where the Wind Is

by CoVaBizMag

Hampton Roads Alliance Hopes to Make Our Region a Wind Hub 

By Karen Haywood Queen

Images Courtesy of Dominion Energy

The Hampton Roads Alliance, a regional economic development organization, is hoping to leverage Dominion Energy’s offshore wind farm to create a hub in Coastal Virginia to serve the burgeoning offshore wind energy sector for the entire East Coast, an emerging $100 billion industry.

“We have a generational opportunity to establish Hampton Roads as the hub of the industry, address serious issues on climate change and also attract a significant number of jobs,” says Matt Smith, director, offshore wind development for the Hampton Roads Alliance.

In May, the Biden administration approved the country’s first offshore wind farm, a $2.8 billion project between Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island. Another project is planned closer by in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and about 20 others are in some stage of development from North Carolina to New England, Smith says.

“A lot of people took the federal approval as a good sign to make investments in the United States,” Smith explains. “We see this project as the jumping off point to serve the larger East Coast wind industry from Hampton Roads. The supply chain doesn’t exist yet on the East Coast; every state is trying to attract portions of the supply chain.”

States north of Virginia have an advantage in project density; more wind farms are being built in the New York-New Jersey-New England area, Smith says.

“There’s a lot of competition up and down the coast, especially from New York and New Jersey. The supply chain is based in Europe now and we’re growing the industry from scratch.”

But Coastal Virginia offers other key advantages in terms of ports and a large, skilled maritime workforce.

Out of 19 ports from North Carolina to Massachusetts ranked in a study by BVG Associates for the state of North Carolina, two Virginia ports—Portsmouth Marine Terminal and Norfolk Southern Lamberts Point—were tied for first place with the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal with scores of 60 out of 70 possible. Ports were ranked based on facility readiness, facility availability, site acreage, cost to redevelop, quayside infrastructure, air draft restriction and channel depth.

“We have a world class port structure that can’t be matched anywhere else,” says Smith.

A strong maritime workforce already exists in Coastal Virginia as well as a continuous supply of retiring military people.

“We have by far the largest maritime workforce on the East Coast,” Smith notes. “Their skills are applicable to the offshore wind industry. We also have 15,000 military members transitioning out of the military each year in Hampton Roads. Those workers are attractive to industry. They’re disciplined and used to dealing with complex systems.”

As part of the effort to attract affiliated businesses and industries, the Alliance has developed Virginia Offshore Wind Landing. This collaborative space includes 2,500 square feet of offices for meetings and work areas to be utilized by leaders of wind-related companies to explore opportunities, work, hold meetings or host events, Smith says.

Currently, the space is free for companies who can contribute to Hampton Roads as a hub of offshore wind infrastructure. Founding members are global leaders of offshore wind energy and supply chain development including Atlantic Wind Transfers, Avangrid Renewables, AZCO, Burns & McDonnell, Crowley, Dominion Energy, Nexans, and Seaway 7.

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