MARCO State Spotlight: Virginia
Virginia has a networked Coastal Zone Management Program which allows its small staff of six to help coordinate coastal and ocean management efforts through 12 member state agencies and 48 coastal cities and counties. Having a small staff means that a large portion of its funding from NOAA can be distributed to its member entities and partners to undertake specific grant projects. Several of these have helped MARCO with projects such as the initial development of the MARCO Ocean Data Portal, collection of whale survey data, synthesis of ocean ecological data, creation of animated maps to show shifts in the core abundance of fish species and a current grant to help develop an offshore wind-siting tool.
In late June 2020 Dominion Energy and its partner, Orsted, constructed the first two offshore wind turbines in federal waters of the U.S. These six megawatt, monopole turbines now reside on a “research lease” 27 miles off Virginia Beach that is held by Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy, a member of Virginia’s CZM Program. This research lease is immediately adjacent to the commercial lease held by Dominion where it plans to install 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy. Construction, in three phases, is scheduled to begin in 2024 and be completed in 2026. 14 megawatt turbines likely will be used. Given that the U.S. does not currently have a jack-up boat required for construction and has had to rely upon European vessels to date, Dominion plans to build one over the next two years.
On June 29 Virginia’s Governor Northam signed several bills in support of offshore wind energy development. The assembled group then boarded two boats to travel out to view the turbines. It was a hot sunny day, but the ocean breeze kept the COVID19-masked group cool. We were about 12 miles offshore before the turbines were just visible on the horizon. Pictures cannot capture the enormity of the scale of these turbines. The height of even nearby anchored container ships seemed dwarfed in comparison. Each blade is 75 meters (~246 feet) long and bears a strong resemblance to the pectoral fin of a humpback whale.
On the trip back to shore our Captain, Skip Feller of Rudee Tours (who may soon expand his charter boat company beyond fishing and whale watching to turbine watching!), kindly slowed down the boat so that we could gaff a floating balloon – 24 miles offshore Virginia Beach!
(See the Prevent Balloon Litter story.)
Credit: Matt Smith
Credit: Laura McKay