10 Jul 2009

Making Hampton Roads and Virginia the East Coast Renewable Energy Leader

Making Hampton Roads and Virginia the East Coast Renewable Energy Leader

Posted by HR Partnership July 10, 2009

by Angie Bezik and Ann Flandermeyer of Principle Advantage, Ltd., a consulting and lobbying firm, specializing in government relations, public affairs and grassroots outreach

offshore wind turbinesCitizens of Hampton Roads, Virginia and the United States are not only recognizing the need for a comprehensive energy plan that includes renewable and alternative energies, they are demanding one. While this movement has been a bit of rolling thunder for a number of years, it has now become quite the exciting storm of activity.

State Senator Frank Wagner, the author of Virginia’s Energy Plan, saw the need for a consortium of Virginia’s universities to share their talents and creativity in the service of satisfying that need. In the few years since its inception, the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC) has grown from an unfunded organization established by the Virginia General Assembly to maximize the Commonwealth’s natural coastal resources, to a highly regarded leader in Marine Renewable Energy Research. VCERC’s research on both algae biofuels and offshore wind energy has been the underpinning for many other projects throughout the United States and beyond.

With Virginia being the second highest importer of electricity at a whopping 30%, (second only to California), now is the time to use our own state funded research and efforts to benefit Virginia and her citizens. Our coastline is bountiful with opportunities for renewable coastal energy. With its natural barriers from negative weather conditions that have prevented other coastal regions from being able to advance in this field, Hampton Roads is well situated to be the east coast leader for wind energy.

VCERC’s Workshop on Wind – Virginia Beach (WOW-VB)

VCERC-VB-SAIC logosIn May 2009, the City of Virginia Beach, VCERC, and VCERC’s major industry partners, Paliria Energy* and SAIC  hosted an afternoon Technical Workshop. Individuals and organizations with both an interest in and the ability to advance the construction of a Virginia offshore wind farm were invited to the well-attended afternoon technical. This is the first time in Virginia that federal, state and local governments, and industry and environmental groups have come together on such an important project.

These groups included the U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Interior Mines & Mineral Service. Governor Kaine sent representatives for the Commonwealth – Preston Bryant, the Secretary of Natural Resources and Steve Walz, the Director of Department of Mines, Mineral and Energy. Major industry representatives included Dominion Power, Northrop Grumman, Areva, Fluor Corporation, Virginia Economic Development, Fugro Atlantic and others.

VCERC’s offshore wind project enjoys a broad range of support, even from environmental groups. Sierra Club President Glen Besa and local coordinator Eileen Levandoski attended the forum and gave favorable presentations about the project.

Back to the beginning – Virginia’s Energy Plan

Senator Wagner introduced SB 262 during the 2006 General Assembly. The legislation directed Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME) to consult with Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the State Corporation Commission (SCC) and Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research to develop a ten-year comprehensive energy plan for Virginia.

Among the many requirements of SB 262 was the establishment of the Virginia Coastal Research Consortium or VCERC. The initial consortium members, Old Dominion University, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute, James Madison University, and Norfolk State University, were charged with researching and developing coastal energy issues. Subsequent legislation added University of Virginia, Hampton University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit http://vcerc.org, VCERC’s website, for more information.

VCERC Wind Project – Looking Forward

VCERC’s research and development have borne out the validity of moving forward with a true project, and since the technical workshop, that is exactly what is happening. Carefully planned ground work for an offshore wind project has been laid for a number of years now and the advanced planning has paid off. Stakeholders have been contacted and briefed and updated as the R&D has continued. And with that concept in mind, we will keep you posted on the progress of this project as advances are made. Look for more in the coming weeks.

*Paliria Energy, Inc. was formed by Tim Wilkins to develop energy technologies and market strategies to help energy-intensive clients manage important market, technology and public policy trends effecting critical energy markets.

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