In the wake of Gov. Ralph Northam setting the commonwealth on a path toward procuring all its power from carbon-free sources by 2050, Virginia is positioned to deploy the most balanced and resilient clean energy portfolio in the nation.
Just two weeks ago, five organizations representing overlapping constituencies and stakeholder groups convened the inaugural Virginia Clean Energy Summit in Richmond, hosting more than 400 registered attendees. Northam opened the summit with remarks that outlined Executive Order 43, signed only days earlier, that sets more aggressive goals in Virginia for deployment and procurement of carbon-free sources of power.
Northam also announced recently his Honor Awards for 2019, one of which recognized the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Unit within the Virginia Department of Corrections for its installation of an 852-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at the Haynesville Correctional Center.
Dominion Energy and its partner, Ørsted of Denmark, indicated at the summit that efforts are underway to install, by 2020, the first two offshore wind turbines ever to be deployed in U.S. federal waters. Dominion also announced its plans to expand its offshore presence even further, by building as many as 220 additional wind turbines that would power 650,000 homes. If constructed by 2026, this project would meet one of Northam’s clean energy goals and would likely be the largest offshore wind power plant in the U.S.
Land-based wind power reached cost parity with fossil power generation within the current millennium, in spite of the fact that fossil fuels continue to receive massive subsidies. The cost of solar power from photovoltaics has more recently followed suit and today represents one of the least expensive sources of electricity. Now we are on the cusp of a third wave as energy storage technologies come of age, and with them the opportunity to mitigate intermittency, the supposed bane of wind and solar.
Imagine for a moment the map of Virginia. We are blessed with nearly ideal landscapes along the southwestern region of our state, where winds at higher elevations can be harnessed through informed siting and responsible development. Throughout the central and eastern land masses of Virginia reside vast open spaces that, in many instances, are under-utilized and well-suited for solar deployment. Finally, along our coast we have identified offshore wind resources that are arguably some of the best in the nation.
This trinity of clean energy resources distributed west to east across the commonwealth distinguishes Virginia from other states; offers the potential to deliver enormous economic benefits, especially to Southwest and Southside Virginia; and positions us to reach the goals set by Northam.
The future of power generation in Virginia embodies a clean energy infrastructure, one that is well-balanced, resilient and affordable. It is indeed time to embrace the fourth wave — where we pool all our indigenous clean energy resources — and leverage the very best technologies and practices developed over decades, to slow and ultimately reverse the devastating impacts on our global community associated with fossil-based power generation. Our children and their children are, at the very least, entitled to this.