Virginia leader to push clean energy

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed an executive order creating a council that will play a central role in his administration’s plans to accelerate the development and use of renewable energy sources.

The Virginia Energy Council will help draw up and implement a “cohesive, comprehensive and aggressive energy strategy” for the state and deliver recommendations for the Virginia Energy Plan, which the administration will submit to the General Assembly on 1 October.

Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones will chair the Council.  Other members of the advisory group will be comprised of members representing all areas of the state’s energy industry.

“An innovative energy strategy will enable us to attract the best businesses and entrepreneurs to Virginia, create more jobs in growing industries, and lead a 21 Century Virginia economy,” says McAuliffe, a Democrat, who took office in January.

Virginia is increasingly well-positioned to benefit from growing investor interest in US offshore wind development.

The US Energy Department (DOE) last month awarded Dominion Virginia Power up to $47m in additional funding to deploy a 12MW pilot wind project in federal waters on the outer continental shelf off the state’s Atlantic coast.

A Dominion-led consortium will install two 6MW direct-drive wind turbines using US-designed twisted jacket foundations. The project will demonstrate installation and O&M methods for wind turbines located and test a hurricane-resilient design.

Last December, Dominion also won a commercial lease sale held by the US Interior Department for a 472.6sq km tract off Virginia. It has five years to conduct research and submit a commercial development plan to Interior.

Virginia is also angling to gain a first-mover advantage and create jobs and lure investment. It already has world-class shipyard and other quayside facilities at Hampton Roads.

McAuliffe sees clean energy as a national security issue as do his political mentors former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, who is expected to run for president in 2016. Virginia is a key political swing state that has been trending toward Democrats.