State regulators question economic effect of proposed offshore wind turbine project

April 30, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As Virginia-based Dominion Energy seeks to build what it calls the country’s largest offshore wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean, the company and its supporters have touted the economic development opportunities expected to accompany the 176-turbine project.

But state regulators, who are currently considering whether to grant approval for the massive project, say the economic picture might not be so rosy.

In testimony filed earlier this month, regulators said that in claiming the wind farm will create jobs and tax growth, the company relied on a “stale” study that didn’t account for the impact of its Virginia electric utility ratepayers bearing the cost of the nearly $10 billion project. The State Corporation Commission’s own analysis found the project was expected to come with an economic cost — including 1,100 lost jobs in the first five rate-years of the project — that might negate any “speculative” benefits.

“Any economic benefits that are likely to arise will do so as a result of new investment in industries in Hampton Roads and Virginia that support offshore wind facility development. The degree to which this new investment occurs is speculative,” according to the commission analysis from Mark Carsley, a utilities manager in the division of public utility regulation.

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In a rebuttal filing Friday, Dominion took issue with Carsley’s testimony and argued that under a 2020 law called the Virginia Clean Economy Act, or VCEA, that helped pave the way for the wind farm, such a cost-benefit analysis doesn’t need to be considered.

Dominion’s wind farm, which would be located about 27 miles (43 kilometers) off the coast of Virginia Beach, has been years in the making. The company announced its specific plans for the commercial-scale project in September 2019. At the time, Dominion had a two-turbine offshore wind pilot project underway.

Dominion then filed its application for the full project with the commission in November. Interested parties ranging from the Sierra Club to Walmart have since joined the case as intervenors, and an evidentiary hearing is set for May 17. The commission’s decision on whether to approve the project and allow the costs of it to be recovered from ratepayers is due by Aug. 5, a spokesman said, and a separate federal review process is also underway.


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