NORFOLK – As Congress considers extending critical federal incentives for wind energy this month, leaders from the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, the City of Norfolk, and the Virginia Ship Repair Association joined Environment Virginia to detail the economic and environmental benefits of supporting offshore wind power and its related supply chain industries.
America’s wind power capacity has quadrupled in the last five years, and 39 states – excluding Virginia –are generating electricity from wind. The wind industry supports over 75,000 American jobs, in sectors ranging from technological development to manufacturing and construction. As land-based turbines spin across the country, coastal states have been working to position themselves to support the ascendant offshore wind industry.
“Hampton Roads is known for its tremendous maritime workforce, shipbuilding capabilities, and deep ports with unlimited clearance,” said Larry Lombardi, Business Development Manager for the City of Norfolk. “The emerging offshore wind industry can change this region’s economic landscape towards greater job growth, higher wages, and an increase in tax revenues.”
The potential for Virginia to help lead the offshore wind industry is now squarely in view. In October, Dominion Virginia Power signed the nation’s second offshore wind lease. In addition to a strong network of state and private support, the company was one of seven national finalists awarded first-round funding for offshore wind project development from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In addition to the wind industry’s economic benefits, the environmental benefits of wind energy set it apart from traditional sources. A new report from Environment Virginia, “Wind Power for a Cleaner America,” found that current American wind power generation avoids the same amount of climate-altering carbon pollution as taking 17 million cars off of the road. Energy from this source helps to avoid 79,600 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 98,400 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot that leads to respiratory disease. Finally, wind energy saves enough water for the annual domestic use of 1 million Americans.
“Wind power already creates enough electricity to light up 13 million homes this holiday season,” said Environment Virginia’s Madison Poche. “We are also making a cleaner, safer home for our families by investing in energy that produces no air pollution, makes no contribution to sea level rise, and uses no water. Other states are already seeing significant benefits from wind, and we don’t want Virginia to miss out.”
The potential benefits of wind power have made it a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution fueling sea-level rise 17 percent by 2020. The plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy, investment in energy efficiency, and the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
Although the industry has moved forward in leaps and bounds, there are still challenges ahead for the Commonwealth, such as continued financial support for an industry still in its infancy. The United States’ recent progress on wind is largely the result of federal incentives for wind power. Despite the clear benefits of wind and widespread bipartisan support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, the main federal incentives for wind – the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) – are currently set to expire at the end of 2013.
“Dominion Power can only move forward as quickly as it makes sense for rate payers in Virginia, and they certainly need to get approval from the State Corporation Commission. It is also important that Congress renew the tax credits that are so important for alternative energy development,” noted Bob Matthias, Chair of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, a state authority facilitating the development of the offshore wind energy industry. He continued, “Even with these tasks in front of us, wind power has a tremendous future for economic development in Virginia and can provide substantial benefits to the environment.”
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led by Susan Collins (R-ME) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) introduced the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act (S.401), which would provide the financial certainty needed to unleash America’s offshore wind potential by providing an ITC for offshore wind power worth up to 30 percent of the cost of the project for the first 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind projects in the United States.
With critical wind energy incentives set to lapse in less than a month’s time, Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, are not currently among the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act’s 15 committed supporters.
“Wind energy is improving our quality of life in this country,” said Madison Poche. “We know the benefits, but we need political will, too. To make sure Virginia doesn’t miss out on this opportunity, I urge Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, to do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year. Sens. Warner and Kaine should support the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act without delay.”