Virginia forum seeks to make wind energy a reality in the state

This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.

Guest Blog | June 28, 2016 | Energy Policy, Wind
Allie Brown (SACE), Bruce Burcat (Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition), and Katherine Kollins (Southeastern Wind Coalition) discuss the regional situation for wind energy with AWEA’s Andrew Gohn. Credit: JMU

Virginia has great potential for wind energy development. Recent advancements in wind turbine technology and reduced costs have now made wind energy economically feasible throughout Virginia. Over 7,000 megawatts of onshore wind potential may exist in Virginia. Additionally, the state has one of the best offshore wind resources in the country. Yet, wind energy remains an untapped resource in Virginia.

Last week, the American Wind Energy Association hosted a daylong forum at James Madison University (JMU) to discuss the pathway to making wind energy a reality. Participants discussed the benefits and challenges of Virginia’s potential for land-based and offshore wind industry. The forum was well attended with over 100 attendees, and included a diverse set of stakeholders from the nonprofit, utility, academic, and government sectors.

JMU could not have been a more fitting location to host the event. The university has a Center for Wind Energy, which provides educational, technical, and research opportunities to advance wind energy in the state. The Center even has a 10 kilowatt wind turbine on the JMU campus, which was spinning throughout the forum. The Center is highly engaged on moving the state towards a wind energy future and providing students with the proper training and education to be a key part of that future.

JMU’s 10 kilowatt wind turbine

The first panel of the forum, which included SACE’s Allie Brown, discussed trends for wind energy development across the entire region. While the Southeast is yet to develop wind energy within the region, many utilties across the South already recognize the opportunity to secure wind as a part of their portfolio. In fact, over 3.7 gigawatts of wind energy power purchase agreements (PPAs) are already in place across the Southern region. Because this region lacks renewable energy policy incentives, the majority of these PPAs have been made by the utilities voluntarily. As stressed at the forum, utilities are making these wind energy purchases because they lower costs for their customers.

Appalachian Power, a participant in the forum, announced in early June a 120 megawatt wind energy contract to deliver wind power from Indiana to customers in West Virginia and Virginia. This will increase the utilities’ total wind portfolio to 495 megawatts. Appalachian Power commented that as wind energy costs continue to decline, the utility will look to secure more wind power, and hopes to benefit from the resource within Virginia in the future.

Later in the day, there was tons of excitement around Virginia’s first large-scale wind farm that’s on the horizon. Apex Clean Energy discussed two recently proposed wind farms in the state: Rocky Forge Wind (75 megawatts) and Pinewood Wind (180 megawatts). Rocky Forge Wind, located in rural Botetourt County, could provide $20-$25 million in state and county tax revenue over the life of the project. The 75 megawatt project is enough electricity to power 20,000 homes a year. Apex received local approval and is now going through the permitting process. Construction could begin as early as this fall!

A simulation of the proposed Rocky Forge wind project from the nearest residence 1.15 miles away. Credit: Apex Clean Energy

SACE looks forward to continuing to engage to help move Virginia and the rest of the Southeast into a wind energy powered region.

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