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Governor Northam signs offshore wind legislation, setting goals for clean energy production

The legislation Northam signed Monday set Virginia's goal to produce 5,200 megawatts of wind energy by 2034. He also established an Office of Offshore Wind.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — On Monday morning, just ahead of a tour of the completed construction of some pilot offshore wind turbines, Governor Ralph Northam signed into law a 5,200-megawatt goal for wind energy in Virginia.

The legislation aims to produce that much renewable energy by 2034.

Northam gave the goal his signature at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, before hopping in a boat to take legislators on a tour of the newly completed offshore wind pilot project, 27 miles from the coast of Virginia Beach.

Dominion Energy also sent a release about the two-turbine, 12-megawatt project that morning. The company said the turbines were completed on-schedule, despite complications from the global coronavirus pandemic.

"The turbines will now undergo acceptance testing before being energized later this summer and producing enough clean, renewable energy, at peak output, to power 3,000 Virginia homes," wrote a Dominion spokesperson.

Dominion Energy official Loyd Eley said the two turbines now set the example. 

“To see it go from conceptually engineering to actual structures in the water was amazing," said Eley.

Delegate Cliff Hayes said it’s a start for changing the way Hampton Roads looks at energy. 

“The wind is the fuel, so we are excited about this clean generation," said Hayes

Northam said this project can help even more, by opening additional jobs in Virginia. He said, “it’s about our environment, it’s about our economy, it’s about bringing up to 14,000 new jobs here in Hampton Roads.”

The company said this is one of the first offshore wind farms constructed in federal waters.

The pilot program is just the beginning of Dominion's full, 2,600-megawatt offshore wind project, which a spokesperson said should be able to power 650,000 homes when it's completed. Widespread construction for the job should start in 2024.

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A release from Northam's office said the energy goal signals a friendly, competitive market environment to renewable energy companies - and could pave the way to bring clean energy jobs to Hampton Roads.

"These measures will help to ensure healthy competition in the procurement of offshore wind projects, bringing diverse offshore wind companies to Virginia to compete in the market and lower costs for Virginia consumers," wrote a government spokesperson.

Northam said he thinks having this wind energy gives the state of Virginia an edge. 

“We always want to stay a couple of steps ahead of other states and I think we can do that here in the Commonwealth," said Northam

Northam also signed a bill to establish an Office of Offshore Wind under the purview of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

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