Offshore wind has the potential to provide the largest, scalable renewable resource for Virginia if it can be achieved at reasonable cost to customers. To help determine how this can be accomplished, Dominion is involved in the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP), a research and development project supporting offshore wind generation. VOWTAP was among seven projects selected nationally by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in December 2012 for a $4 million award supporting initial engineering, design, and permitting for a proposed offshore wind (OSW) demonstration facility approximately 27 miles (~24 nautical miles) off the coast of Virginia.
Dominion Virginia Power was awarded an additional $47 million from the DOE on May 7, 2014, to help fund the construction of the OSW demonstration project. Dominion was one of three companies among the seven finalists to receive the additional funding. In its DOE application, the VOWTAP team proposed designing, developing and demonstrating a grid-connected, 12-megawatt offshore wind facility consisting of two Alstom 6-megawatt turbines mounted on innovative foundations. In Virginia, 1-megawatt of offshore wind can help power up to 250 homes at peak demand.
Dominion’s project schedule has the VOWTAP project becoming operational in 2017, subject to pursuing and obtaining applicable regulatory approval(s).
The primary VOWTAP objectives are:
- To design, develop, and demonstrate a state-of-the art grid-connected 12 megawatt (mw) offshore wind research facility off the coast of Virginia.
- Employ technology innovations and research that will inform and benefit future commercial scale offshore wind developments in the United States.
- Develop technologies and process solutions that will contribute to establishing offshore wind as a cost-effective renewable energy solution for the United States.
The VOWTAP Team
The Dominion VOWTAP team includes:
Maps and Charts
DOE expects project commissioning to occur between 2015 and 2017. Dominion anticipates meeting DOE’s required timeframe, while also allowing for all environmental permitting to be completed, and the Virginia SCC's regulatory review to occur.
- DOE selection of VOWTAP for 50% Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED)
- DOE down-selection of up to three projects nationwide to proceed with 100% FEED and construction
- Begin construction
Permits, Approvals and Consultations
Research Activities Plan
A Research Activities Plan was submitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to BOEM on Feb. 21, 2014 for the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Assessment Project (VOWTAP). The plan details the VOWTAP proposed location and schedule and includes resource and assessment information and data collected to date in support of the planned design, construction, installation operation and maintenance of two 6MW turbines offshore Virginia. The plan also provides information related to the installation of approximately 27 nautical miles of submarine transmission cable as well as other ancillary facilities and improvements to terrestrial substations required to support the VOWTAP project.
Costs, Grants, Impact on Customer Bills
VOWTAP Project Costs
During the first year of the project, the team will begin engineering design to determine the total project cost. Offshore wind is significantly more expensive than other generation sources. The DOE’s Energy Information Administration estimates that commercial offshore wind will cost more than 22 cents per kWh. This demonstration project will not have the economies of scale found in commercial projects and in turn will likely have a higher cost.
Federal or Department of Energy Funding
Dominion has been selected for Phase 1 under the DOE’s program. DOE is funding $4 million in this phase for preliminary engineering and environmental survey work. Should Dominion be selected in 2014 for Phase 2 of the project, it would be eligible for an additional $47 million for final engineering and construction of the project.
Impact on Customer Bills
If VOWTAP is selected for further DOE funding, the team will proceed with detailed engineering, budgeting and costing integral to determining an impact on customer bills. Not one penny can be added to customer bills unless the project is approved by the State Corporation Commission.
Dominion reviewed potential points of interconnection and identified several alternatives that are viable. The final interconnection point will be determined during the development phase. At this time, Camp Pendleton has been identified as the preferred interconnection point; however, other alternatives have been considered.
All lines coming onshore will be underground.
Birds and Bird Communities
Siting the project more than 27 miles (~24 nautical miles) offshore is expected to reduce potential impacts to birds, since most species stay relatively close to shore. Dominion is currently conducting monthly avian/bird surveys for one year as part of the VOWTAP. The survey results to date show low bird activity in the project area.
Dominion will apply for and receive a number of Federal, state, and local permits and approvals for the project, and will be required to comply with several Federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation & Management Act, Historic Preservation Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act. The project will be designed and operated to avoid potential impacts to the environment to the extent possible, including potential effects on marine mammals, sea turtles, and other aquatic life.
Visual Assessment of Turbines
Potential visual impacts of the proposed turbines were a major consideration when identifying the offshore research lease location (i.e., Section 238 Research Lease Area). The offshore lease area is approximately 27 miles (~24 nautical miles) offshore, and both curvature of the earth and light refraction significantly limit the visibility of turbines from shore.
The Effects of the Curvature of the Earth and Atmospheric Refraction on the Apparent Height of Objects
Due to the curvature of the earth’s surface, objects viewed on the horizon are not seen in their entirety because they begin to fall below the visible horizon. As the distance from the viewing location to the object continues to increase, less of the object will be visible. Because of this, height corrections must be made to the visual simulations to account for the earth’s curvature. The line of sight curves downward at large distances because of the refraction of light in the Earth’s atmosphere. This effectively lessens the impact of the earth’s curvature on the relative height of an object, as shown in the figure below.
Local Notice to Mariners for VOWTAP Marine Surveys - June 2014
View a Local Notice to Mariners for the VOWTAP Marine Geophysical and Geotechnical Surveys that will be conducted in state and federal waters off Virginia Beach, VA, from approximately June 2 - June 30, 2014.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did Dominion choose to participate in this Department of Energy research project?
The project presents a unique opportunity to partner with world-class firms to leverage innovations in all aspects of offshore wind design and fabrication, installation, operations and maintenance. Dominion is committed to pursuing cost reduction activities to make commercial-scale offshore wind generating stations more economical.
Is this project connected to the lease auction that Dominion won?
This project is not directly connected to the commercial lease that BOEM awarded to Dominion in September 2013. The goal of this 12-megawatt research and development project is to identify ways technology advancements can lower the cost of future commercial-scale projects. This project will bring valuable information that can be transferred to future large-scale projects. Experience in permitting, design, installation and operations will be directly applicable to commercial scale development.
How many jobs will this produce?
While the total number of jobs this project will create has not yet been determined, we believe several hundred direct and indirect jobs will be created by the 12-megawatt offshore wind demonstration project. As part of its Virginia permitting, Dominion will conduct an economic impact study to determine economic benefits to the area.
Will the wind turbines withstand a major hurricane?
An offshore wind project has yet to be built in an area subject to hurricanes. Part of the VOWTAP project is establishing the appropriate design standards to ensure that a project located in a hurricane-prone region can withstand such conditions. In addition, turbine suppliers are evaluating and considering hurricane conditions in their designs.
How can I ask questions or get my company involved in the VOWTAP project?
You can call 1-855-790-4035 or email VOWTAP@dom.com to provide information about your company’s services, and/or interest in the project. (This is not associated with Dominion Virginia Power customer service. For customer service assistance, call 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).